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Food & Dining

(BPT) - Around-the-clock food shows, celebrity guests and niche themed restaurants are just a few reasons the fine food movement continues to experience extraordinary growth. In 2016, more people will be seeking upscale dining experiences that focus on the unique to the luxurious - and they're willing to pay big bucks to do so.

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Upscale dining is becoming more popular

In fact, Americans said they would splurge an average of $203 in order to have a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at a gourmet restaurant, according to a recent online survey by Harris Poll sponsored by Michelin, the global tire maker that publishes the popular restaurant guide.

What's surprising is the people willing to pay the most for fine dining experiences are younger generations. Millennials (ages 18-34) on average would pay $282 for this culinary experience, compared to diners ages 45-54 who would shell out $170, and $122 for those 65 and older.

One explanation for why younger diners are willing to pay so much is that they want to enjoy more than just fine cuisine. Many restaurants offer an overall experience that will be remembered long after the last morsel of food is gone. Whether it's an incredible atmosphere, the opportunity to observe the chef work or gaining access to foods and cooking styles never available before, this desire for an experience is driving younger diners to invest in upscale dining.

As America looks at the most recent Michelin star ratings to navigate the nation's best eateries, there are some food and restaurant trends that are positioned to grow in 2016. Chefs will continue to expand their creative prowess by experimenting with new cooking styles and food fusions. Cooking methods will blend with science and art to create uniquely fine fare with a story that is as intriguing as the taste.

Diversity is another notable trend for 2016. Authentic ethnic cuisine is in high demand and restaurants are answering the call. Traditional restaurants will begin to offer diverse plates in addition to timeless favorites to appeal to a wide range of palates. Expect to see more ancient grains, ethnic spices and worldly condiments at eateries in the future.

Conscious dining is a growing trend thanks to diners' increasing awareness of where their food comes from. Hyper-local sourcing of ingredients is being adopted by many notable restaurants. This includes growing fresh herbs and vegetables onsite and partnering with local farms for incredibly fresh dairy and meat products. Sustainable seafood partnerships are another effort by restaurants that supports the increasing demand for responsible dining options.

Finally, diners are seeking chefs with the best reputation for tried-and-true favorites. That means the city's chef with a reputation for curating and cooking the best steak will have a wait list. Supporting this nod toward the traditional, the Michelin survey found a quarter of U.S. adults say steakhouse cuisine is their favorite choice for dining. What's the runner up? Italian ranked as the second choice nationally for the meal of a lifetime.

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