More than 60% of consumers surveyed by Technomic order ethnic foods to “look for something different” or discover new flavors. And, lately, restaurant operators are exploring new areas of the world, Ms. Kruse said.
Chefs are combining global flavors with familiar formats. Falafel, a fixture of Middle Eastern cuisine, is popping up in burgers and on pizzas. And gochujang, a fermented condiment with a touch of sweet heat, is being marketed on menus as “Korean barbecue sauce.”
“You know what happens to an American when you say ‘barbecue,’ right?” Ms. Kruse said. “So, I think that opens the door for crossover.”
The next big ethnic cuisine, she predicted, will be Cuban food.“There is a direct line as far back as we can go between what’s happening in the world and what’s happening in your pantries,” Ms. Kruse said. “It’s not just by coincidence that Middle Eastern cuisine is trending, and it’s not just by coincidence that I expect we will see more Cuban food appearing on menus around the country.”