Latin and Asian food innovation on display at COEX event

Tampa, Florida – A record number of restaurant chain operators, on-premise service providers, food service manufacturers and more attended the COEX event from March 5-7.

Among the highlights of the food industry event: Data Essential’s Jack Lee and Megan Lenberg revealed several noteworthy restaurant pricing and menu trends.


“Restaurant operators couldn’t hold out any longer. They had to take price increases in 2022,” Lee said at COEX (Chain Operators Exchange Conference), presented by the International Food Service Manufacturers Association. The increases varied by type of restaurant, as follows:

  • Fast casual: 8.8%
  • QSR: 8.3%
  • Average: 7.7%
  • Casual: 6.0%
  • Fine dining: 3.6%

The highest price increase was AM Bakery (13.2%), followed by condiments (11.5%), wings (10.8%) and fries (9.9%). The smallest increases were in the coffee, cheesecake, hot tea, cake and specialty coffee categories.

“These are check builders,” Lee said of the latter group of categories, “and the operators didn’t want to dissuade people from buying those extras.”

Operators were more likely to increase prices on new items than on old menu offerings. Li urged operators to enhance the attractiveness of food to justify higher prices.

At Menu-a-Thon—where corporate chefs translate trends into brunch—Lynberg discussed menu and run trends for 2023 and beyond. She noted that sustainability is rebounding, saying, “Operators have had to focus on keeping their doors open during the pandemic but sustainability is making a strong comeback,” adding that 21% of consumers would go out of their way to eat at a restaurant that follows sustainable practices.

Other directions and corresponding menu items include:

  • Latin food looks ready to go, in the form of Latin Pizza, Barbacoa Steak Tacos
  • Flavors of Asia abound, such as the vegan black sesame balls with yuzu ponzu sauce.
  • Say hello to Generation Alpha: Chimichurri Chik’n & Pineapple Power Bowls on display in Tampa

One final, eye-opening data point revealed at COEX: IFMA research revealed that 75% of operators feel innovation is “the key to surviving tough times,” while 25% believe innovation is “better focus in boom times.”

Editor’s note: Ron Tanner has been observing and reporting on the food industry for more than four decades, including 33 years with the Specialty Foods Association and 10 years with Progressive Grocer Magazine.

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