Want to know what 2024 has in store in the world of food and restaurants? You’ve come to the right place, as we run through some big trend predictions for next year. Though we’re now a few years removed from the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, the reverberations of these two era-defining events continue to be felt throughout hospitality. We saw lots of fantastic new restaurants open throughout the year, and yet, many more have been forced to close as global events, rising produce costs, energy rates and more make life increasingly hard for restaurant owners.
Political instability makes 2024 very hard to predict for restaurants. UKHospitality - the trade body for hospitality in the UK - has continually pushed the government to continue to support the industry with business rates relief, without which lots more restaurants would be pushed to the brink of closure. The threat of recession also hangs over the economy - another potential outcome that would have huge ramifications on the state of the restaurant industry in 2024.
This might all sound very gloomy, but there’s plenty more to be excited about within food itself. UK restaurants continue to push the boundaries year after year, showing phenomenal dynamism and resilience to lift the ceiling of British food higher and higher. The best restaurants in the UK now compete on a level with the best in the world, and not just in London - though the capital is the centre of the British restaurant landscape and one of the most exciting food cities in the world, there are exceptional restaurants all over the country.
Food itself is getting exciting too - the UK continues to move further towards flexitarianism and more healthy food choices, and we’re set to see at home and in-restaurant food that leans towards healthy whole foods and away from processed foods. We think 2024 holds plenty more in store in that regard, as well as restaurants that give happiness with simple, unpretentious cooking.
Sound good? Read on as we unpack some key food and restaurant trends for 2024.
Vegetables in the spotlight
Vegan and vegetarian cooking is nothing new, but there’s still a high ceiling when it comes to the potential of creative plant-based food. Restaurants like Tendril in London and Land in Birmingham are blazing a new trail for what can be achieved with vegetables. There’s plenty of room for more to follow suit, especially given the growing desire for healthy eating choices among diners.
‘Vegan and vegetarian dining has been a constant presence on the UK restaurant scene for a very long time, so it's not necessarily a new trend, as some media would have us believe,’ explains Tendril chef and founder Rishim Sachdeva. ‘However, we are definitely seeing a more varied and creative approach to plant first dining, especially in London, on both vegan and non vegan restaurant menus over the last couple of years. I am sure we will see this continuing on restaurant menus across the UK into 2024, with more stand-alone plant first restaurants opening, and more than one simple vegan or vegetarian option and less 'fake meat' alternatives used on menus on more mainstream restaurant brand menus.’
Sachdeva's plant-based cooking has been a revelation since Tendril started as a pop-up. Now, Tendril has secured a permanent site in Mayfair.
Focus on affordability
Restaurant costs are trending upwards, but consumers have less money to spend than before - that’s chastening reading for those who like to eat out, and we’re only likely to see that gap increase in 2024. That will likely create a large sector who want to eat out, but value and affordability will be a key factor. Where there’s a market, there will hopefully be businesses that look to cater to it; here’s hoping that 2024 is a year where we see restaurants adapt their business models to create affordable eating out experiences, rather than seeing a whole sector of society get priced out of eating out.
It’s becoming harder and harder to make the old fine dining model work now, as tastes change and costs drift ever upwards. We’ve already seen a few restaurants close, in order to pivot to more affordable models (The Man Behind The Curtain in Leeds, for example, which will relaunch as the more flexible but equally idiosyncratic Psycho Sandbar in January 2024, or Belfast’s Deanes EIPIC, which has closed to rebrand as a more value-led concept). There will no doubt be more of this in 2024 as restaurants look to refocus their efforts and adjust to a new economic landscape.
Insects are coming
The arrival of insects into our diets has been predicted for years, but 2024 might finally be the year that these protein-rich little critters finally break through. Nutritious and easy to farm, insects solve a fair few food chain issues and there are companies like Saved and Yum Bug that are developing all sorts of products, from snack packs to full-on restaurant-quality meals. Yum Bug even has a restaurant open in Shoreditch where you can try dishes like sourdough with cricket miso butter, and sesame-crusted polpette with cucumber, kohlrabi and chilli salad, where all the protein comes from crickets.
Yum Bug's Shoreditch restaurant pop-up sold out at the end of 2023.
Forget the doom harbingers and the end of humanity for a minute - 2024 could be the year that AI completely changes the way we cook and eat at home. Never before has there been a one-size-fits-all solution that marries cooking instructions, technical help and recipe ideas on the fly. As our time becomes more valuable, most of us want to spend less time cooking but still enjoy good food at home. Mintel's annual Global Food and Drink Trends Report highlighted the chance for technology to usher in 'a new era of convenience', and AI has the potential to be a huge time saving tool, whether that is providing recipe suggestions based on the contents of your fridge, or generating recipes and shopping lists to fit your food preferences. Check out Buzzfeed’s Botatouille app, for example, which gives AI-driven cooking advice and recipe suggestions based on what ingredients you have in the house.
Much like last year, there’s still a huge desire for eating out to be a memorable experience. Maximalist ventures have been very successful this year - just look at Jacuzzi and Carlotta, for example, the Batman-themed Iceberg Lounge at Park Row, or the return of Manzi’s to London, with its verdigris mermaid sculptures and a taxidermy marlin in the entrance. With dining out becoming less affordable, diners want to feel like they’ve experienced something unique and special when they go out.
Paint & Sip
Already a phenomenon in the US, paint and sip is growing fast in the UK and looks set to explode in 2024. What is paint and sip, you ask? These private or group events encourage budding artists to come along and learn to paint, with a drink in hand! The class is usually led by an art instructor who can give helpful advice as you paint, but ultimately the classes are open to all comers and experience levels, so you can just come to have fun and meet some new people, or you can pick up a new skill. Perfect for work socials, corporate events, birthday parties and more, paint and sip classes also make great private events.
Check out our list of the best paint and sip classes in London.
Non-alcoholic drinks and pairings
Always seen as an inferior option for designated drivers and non-drinkers, non-alcoholic pairings are really coming into their own as a different but just as interesting option for diners. Sommelier Honey Spencer even offers a half-and-half pairing to go with the seasonal tasting menu at Evelyn’s Table - a brilliant idea that we expect to see more of. Meanwhile, distilleries and producers like Salcombe Gin in Devon and Three Spirit in London are making some exceptional drinks that have huge pairing potential.
'For me, it’s always been about finding the best way to ensure my guests have a complete experience,' says Spencer, who is also wine director of Studio Paskin and co-founder of Sune restaurant in Hackney. 'The continued downturn of guests opting for alcohol has spurred me in all my projects to invest time into finding, and, more often than not making drinks in-house that complete a meal in the same way beverages like wine and sake have in the past. We always go above and beyond to give guests the optimum experience when they visit us.'
The return of the Martini
Our obsession with tequila and mezcal in 2023 saw us chucking back Margaritas like there was no tomorrow, but next year has something more elegant in store. Martinis have been on a meteoric rise for a few years now - first we had Pornstar Martinis, then Espresso Martinis, but get ready for more interesting takes on this iconic drink in 2024. ‘For the last couple of years we’ve seen more bars taking a playful approach to cocktail development, including reinventing retro cocktails like the Appletini or Grasshopper, by tinkering with the classic formulas to create something more enticing for the modern palate,’ explains drinks writer and bar consultant Tyler Zielinski. ‘As the kitschy cocktail trend continues to proliferate in bars, the martini is leading the way with Pickletinis, sophisticated dirty Martinis (with caviar, anyone?) and crowd-pleasing Lychee Martinis booming in the last year in particular.’
B Bagel opened a fourth site in Camden in late 2023, with more planned for 2024.
We’re calling it - 2024 is the year of the bagel. Its Bagels opened in London in 2023 and was an instant social sensation smash hit. Not just that, B Bagel has also announced more sites in the pipeline for 2024. Delicious, versatile and a great change-up for anyone who gets bored of a meal deal, bagels are poised to take over your social feeds, becoming the square croissants of 2024.
Already planning your restaurant visits for next year? Check out our roundup of the most exciting restaurants openings coming to London in 2024.