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It’s a hot summer already, but the season is full of life. With a return to restaurants and other activities, now is the time to reach out to your audiences, to create special experiences for guests, and to tune-in to the tastes of the moment.

With summer comes grilling season, and despite an increase in vegan and vegetarian options, including a 26% increase in plant-based seafood options, meat is still trending for summer fare. What matters now is care and attention to detail. Diners are willing to consume meat products that are carefully sourced and just as intentionally prepared. 

First things first—and this will be especially true with this year’s hot summer temperatures—small quantities are key. According to kerry.com Technomic found 52% of consumers say its appealing for snacks to be high in protein, so meat snacks are proving to be a high-growth category. Meat-centric small plates will have high appeal, and positively, smaller portions will have a broader serving time. Whether to share across a table at a meal or for a good-calorie happy hour snack, smaller meat portions will yield a greater return. Additionally, this is true for meat-inspired vegetarian options. “Plant-based meat snacks grew [more than] 56% from 2019 to 2020 according to Nielsen, giving way to dozens of different fruit- and veggie-based jerkies,” stated kerry.com. 

Along the same lines, it’s time to level-up charcuterie. “Millennials and Gen Z arent settling for just your classic meats and cheeses—their creativity (and abundant social sharing) is expanding the definition of the ‘charcuterie board’, stated an article on Kerry Digest. The concept of snack boards can also expand beyond meats and plant-based meet options. Dress-up snack time and happy hour with charcuterie-inspired fry platters, veggie trays, chips and dips—or even breakfast spreads since breakfast sales are up 45% and plant-based breakfast sausage sales grew 125% according to Nielsen.

When it comes to meat trends, portion and presentation are important, but taste is still penultimate. This list of trending flavors is the perfect way to start exploring new tastes, keeping in mind that diners are feeling more and more adventurous in their flavor profiles. Spicy is leading the charge with Cajun and hot-honey at the top of charts for most-searched recipes.

Designing your menu around this season’s hottest trends will help you make the most of summer’s restaurant resurgence—especially as we make our way out of pandemic related concerns and restrictions. While it can be a lot to manage guidelines, shortages, staffing, and still add-in menu development, a restaurant consultant can help streamline these processes and decisions so that your restaurant can thrive this summer.