The Latest in Food Innovation Trends

Today’s most creative restaurants keep guests coming back for more. They are always pushing the envelope or keeping the guests on their toes with food innovations.

On the IOChangeMakers live stream, we sat down with three food innovators– Jeff Drake, CEO of Protein Bar, Diana Dávila, chef and owner of Mi Tocaya Antojera and Zach Engel, executive chef and Owner of Galit to see how they are constantly keeping things exciting at their restaurants.

As Chef Dávila points out the culinary landscape is much more diverse today. The European structure is being broken down. Instead, chefs are embracing their cultural backgrounds.

"I find that in my kitchen people have to unlearn what they know about cooking in general because the European structure doesn't fit the Mexican techniques," says Dávila.

Chef Engel helms the kitchen at Galit, where the dining experience is also much different from the traditional European structure. The Middle Eastern restaurant in Chicago has two menus.

"We have the menu and on the back is what we call the other menu. The other menu is four-courses, it's not like a boujie prix fixe menu with tasting portions and all that, it's family style. This is the concept of how we want people to experience cuisine. We want you to have a giant meal with bread, hummus, Salatin, and all sorts of plates with big entrees with bold grains," says Engel.

Jeff Drake, on the other hand, is a food innovator in the fast casual segment. This sector has been disrupting the traditional culinary structure for years.

Protein Bar was a pioneer in the segment by serving unique ingredients guests couldn't get anywhere else, but now with the saturated market, the concept has had to up its game.

"When Matt the founder started Protein Bar, he was one of the first people to put quinoa on the menu. When he put quinoa on the menu 10 years ago, people didn't know what it was or how to say it.," says Drake. "Over the last 2.5 years, we have gotten back to focusing on ingredients and bringing interesting ingredients or boosts onto our menu."

Want more insights from these food innovators? Check out the video above or the full interview is also now exclusively available on Foodable On-Demand here.

How Naf Naf Grill Plans to Conquer the Middle-Eastern Fast Casual Food Space

The fast casual segment is no longer just reserved for Panera Bread, Chipotle, and Shake Shack.

The better-burger sector gets more saturated every day with multiple chains out there serving up burgers, fries and hot dogs like Smashburger, Five Guys, and Burgerfi.

There are even more pizza concepts for consumers to pick from like Mod Pizza, Blaze Pizza, PizzaRev, &pizza, Uncle Maddio's, and Pieology.

As more of these chains immerse the market, the more intriguing fast casual concepts serving rarer cuisines become.

Today's American foodies are on the lookout to try something new. Enter Middle Eastern cuisine.

The fast casual chain Naf Naf Grill is leading the way in this sector and is bringing Middle Eastern cuisine to the masses.

The menu consists of items like pita sandwiches, falafel, hummus, veggie feasts, and salads– all appealing to vegetarians and vegans.

Although these menu items are similar to those of the Mediterranean cuisine, Naf Naf plans to conquer the Middle-Eastern market in the U.S.

"There’s a lot of competition in the Mediterranean space. You won’t find all kinds of lettuce, feta cheese and olives in our concept. We are known for falafel, chicken shawarma and pita. These three menu items are made fresh in–house every day. Our goal is that consumers fall in love with the freshness, healthiness and flavors that they may not have tried before," said Paul Damico, who was named CEO of Naf Naf Grill in 2017 to "Forbes."

Naf Naf Grill has an aggressive growth plan and intends to achieve it by ramping up franchising in 2019.

In 2017, the company's sales spiked by 58 percent compared to the year before.

Read more about how the chain plans to expand rapidly at "Forbes" now.

Want to know Damico's best advice? We recently interviewed the Naf Naf Grill CEO and former president of Moe’s Southwest Grill to see what tips he had for up and coming operators. Sign up for Foodable+ to watch this video and get more exclusive content!

Whole Foods' Top Trends for 2018 and How To Try Them

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Every year, Whole Foods Market releases its predictions for the top food trends of the upcoming year. These are determined by seasoned trend-spotters with more than 100 years of combined experience in product sourcing and studying consumer preferences, according to the natural and organic foods retailer.

Whole Foods Market uses this trend list as a way to showcase some of its 365 products that are key on trend, as well as, to highlight some of the unique products and brands the store distributes.

Super powders, Middle Eastern food items, plant-based products, taco-styled food, and new bubbly drinks are some of the trending items the Amazon-acquired store is showing off in its top 10 trends list.

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Super powders

“For an energy boost or an alternative to coffee, powders like matcha, maca root and cacao are showing up in mugs everywhere,” states press release from Whole Foods Market.

Plant-based products

This has been a hot topic in 2017 with Beyond Meat Burger making many headlines and brands like Ripple offering unique alternatives to dairy. It looks like it’s going to be a stronger trend in 2018 according to Whole Foods Market.

Taco-styled food

“This street-food star is no longer limited to a tortilla, or to savory recipes: Tacos are showing up for breakfast, and trendy restaurants across the country have dessert variations,” states press release from Whole Foods Market.


To learn about which other trends made it onto the top 10 list and how to try them, visit, “Whole Foods Market”.

No Rules in Dining: What Big Trends Will We See Next?

No Rules in Dining: What Big Trends Will We See Next?

By Jim Berman, Foodable Industry Expert

Upscale chefs playing down-scale roles. Fast-fooding of the eclectic palate. What is next for this "No Rules" era of dining? Edison lights, shrunken menus, refreshingly loud music, and shareable plates are de rigueur. So, where are you going?

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Middle Eastern Cuisine is on the Rise: Q&A with Naf Naf Grill’s CEO

Middle Eastern Cuisine is on the Rise: Q&A with Naf Naf Grill’s CEO

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

The fast casual segment has come a long way from being made up of concepts like Pei Wei, Chipotle and Panera Bread. There are new sectors in this segment constantly emerging- whether it’s a particular culinary style like Indian or Mediterranean food, or focused around one offering like, the gourmet taco or the gourmet burger.

Now, consumers have a variety of quality, affordable options to pick from. And American foodies are always on the lookout to try something new. Enter Middle Eastern cuisine, the latest sector on the rise in fast casual.

Although the Middle Eastern culinary style has some foreign elements to the American consumer, bread, a fan-favorite, is often the base of these dishes.

A fast casual concept expanding rapidly is Naf Naf Grill, a restaurant chain currently with 25 stores, including one new location opening at the Mall of America this weekend. These restaurants are bringing Middle Eastern cuisine to the masses and the brand just recognized as a Hot Concept.

We sat down with one of Naf Naf Grill’s co-CEOs, David Sloan to learn why guests are lovin’ this style of food and what is to come for the brand.

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