Posted on Friday, 24ᵗʰ January, 2024
Throughout the year, UFS speaks to hundreds of chefs across Australia and New Zealand. What we hear gives us a unique insight into the often-subtle ways customer preferences evolve.
This past year has been no different, with cafés across the land working hard to deliver classic breakfast dishes while responding to emerging trends. Here is what’s currently cooking in cafés and what’s on the menu for 2024.
TOP DISH STAPLES
- Smashed avo is well and truly past the trending stage and is now a café must-have.
- Big breakfast is a strong seller on nearly every menu with many cafés creating a signature version of this true classic for diners who are looking for a filling way to start the day.
- The classic eggs Benedict continues to be a menu mainstay and has recently been surging in popularity again as chefs find new ways to bring life to this traditional favourite.
GROWING AND EMERGING ON MENUS
- Healthy bowls are a phenomenon that show no signs of slowing down. This wholesome dish is often based around a key ingredient, such as açai berry or hemp seed.
- Shakshuka delivers on the growing diner enthusiasm for African and Middle Eastern flavours while also being a filling and wholesome breakfast or brunch dish.
- Mexican twists are on the move, with burritos, quesadillas and chilaquiles appearing regularly on breakfast menus.
- Fermented ingredients are gradually making their way through all corners of the menu and have reached café breakfasts with a bang. Think pickles on a Benedict, gochugaru in a scramble, and cabbage in a wrap as diners start the day with healthy gut hit.
- Breakfast wraps, toasties and breakfast burgers continue to grow in prominence as perfect foods-to-go serving an increasingly mobile and time-conscious populace. New and creative takes on these takeaway breakfast favourites include a brisket toastie, comprising slow roasted beef brisket, kimchi, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese, from Newcastle café Elementa.
- Breakfast boards are having a moment as sharing and small portions come to the first meal of the day. At Webster’s Market & Café in Ballarat, diners can order an eclectic share board that includes honey and vanilla yoghurt, super seeds and nuts, seasonal fruits, smoked salmon, smashed avocado and goat’s cheese, poached eggs, sourdough and fruit toast.
Any marketer worth their salt will tell you every product or service needs a point of difference.
- Signature dishes are a simple way for a café to set itself apart and we’re seeing more and more custom takes on classic meals. From special sauces to creative fusions, signature dishes are a chance to flex into imaginative new areas and become famous for something.
At Big Esso, a café located at Melbourne’s Federation Square dedicated exclusively to Indigenous dishes, chef Nornie Bero’s signature wattleseed damper draws in diners from far and wide. Since 1999, Sydney café Maggio’s has been attracting local foodies with its signature dish Maggio’s Eggs, an Italian take on the classic poached eggs brunch dish.
- The menu-as-a-marketing tool has become a powerful way for venues to set themselves apart, as they employ copywriters or delve into their creative kitbag to write evocative dish descriptions and tempting titles. But what does it mean in practice?
For some venues, such as Saints Kitchen in Salisbury Plain, it means highlighting interesting ingredients and name-checking local produce. For example, the venue’s breakfast burger is vividly described as comprising Barossa bacon, fried free-range egg, mozzarella cheese, bacon jam, potato rösti on a lightly toasted seeded brioche bun.
For other venues, such as Hot Shott in Main Beach on the Gold Coast, it means going above and beyond to lift the titles of dishes out of the ordinary, with examples like the intriguing Granny’s Bircher, Crump-it Up and The Hottest Hot Brekky.
In each case, the goal is to elevate the value of a dish with imaginative and evocative writing. It’s also worth remembering customers ordering online may only have the words on your menu to make a judgement about whether your food is worth trying. The more captivating your copy, the more likely you are to make the sale.
- Solo dining was, according to restaurant booking platform OpenTable, 2023’s most notable foot traffic trend. While the idea of eating alone in a sit-down venue has emerged recently, it would seem any stigma related to dining by oneself is quickly evaporating.
How can your café make itself more welcoming to solo diners? For starters, setting places for one makes it less obvious that singles are missing a companion. Some café owners also report that solo diners appreciate friendly conversation from wait staff and chefs.
- The ‘little treats’ TikTok trend is tailormade for cafés to explore, with cost-of-living pressures encouraging many diners to downsize their dishes but still seek the rewarding experience of a treat.
The idea behind the movement is to give people permission to indulge in a small and affordable everyday luxury, such as a buttermilk pancake short stack or churros with chocolate sauce and ice cream. Despite being based around something that is little, the practice is designed to make people feel good, if only for a moment or two.
Little treats are being driven by millennials and Generation Z, so a selection of these dishes and snacks on your menu might be a clever way of finding a loyal new market.