In 2014, the trendy food in the UK was hot dogs; last year the mother country was all over barbecue, specifically brisket burnt ends. So what’s hot now? Mac ‘n cheese. Its an old favorite but its appearance on UK menus has grown by 550% since 2010, according to the Menu Trends survey, conducted biannually by British foodservice consultancy Horizons. The survey tracks changes on the menus of 120 high street (mainstream) eating-out brands.
The dish has become “a firm favorite on British menus loved by both consumers and restaurant operators who can add simple twists to the classic dish with the addition of a range of ingredients or crunchy toppings for a relatively low price,” Horizons reports. “The dish is also being served in restaurants in a variety of ways such as inside a burger or calzone or as a side dish.”
Pricing varies vary from $3.34 to $5.24 (£2.39-£3.75) for a side order, to $8.31 to $12.93 (£5.95-£9.25) for a main course, according to Horizons. For example, A side of Mac ‘n cheese (with mature Cheddar and Gran Moravia cheese) at the Byron burger chain is $5.52 (£3.95), while Burger Craft in London has a Beef Shin Mac & Cheese entrée (three-cheese mac with six-hour beer-braised beef shin chunks) for $9.09 (£6.50).
The menu at London’s Delisserie New York Deli & Grill has no fewer than 20 mac ‘n cheese varieties. The basic dish is $9.71 (£6.95) while more exotic versions are priced higher, such as Cajun Shrimp Mac & Cheese at $13.90 (£9.95).
“Macaroni cheese was once a cheap, comfort food for home cooking but has now become a favorite on menus. It’s a huge success story for restaurants and pubs and shows that chefs have returned to some of our old favorites by giving them a new twist with modern ingredients,” said Horizons analyst Nicola Knight.
And if mac ‘n cheese is hot, can ultra-comfort hash-brown potato dishes be far behind? They’re not: up 18% in the past year. London’s The Riding House Cafe’s Saturday Brunch menu includes both a Macaroni Cheese Fritter with leek, tomato and caper dressing for $17.47 (£12.50) and a Chorizo Hash Brown with mushrooms & poached egg for $16.77 (£12).
Pulled pork continues to increase its menu presence, up another 20% in the past year. Ribs are up 11% year-on year. Vegetarian foods now account for 27% of menu items, up from 23% a year ago.
Another way in which UK foodservice resembles its American counterpart is in dealing: The Menu Trends survey finds 71% of eating-out brands offering one or more meal deals.
Burgers, of course, and pizza remain the UK’s most frequently menued foods.
An update: An October 2014 post explained how Rick Boyd moved his Grind Modern Burger from little Eagle, Idaho, to bigger Boise. Grind has been a consistently creative, high-quality burger joint since the relocation. Alas, Grind Modern Burger shut its doors yesterday. This is unfortunate news, especially coming so soon after news of the imminent closing—due to a lost lease—of another featured burger joint, Chicago’s Spritz Burger. It’s a tough marketplace. Let’s be careful out there.