KANSAS CITY — Bakers should be pleased with the 17th annual What’s Hot culinary forecast for 2023 by the National Restaurant Association, in partnership with the American Culinary Federation and Technomic.

Sandwiches and handheld meals are prominent throughout the survey of the nation’s chefs. In fact, the No. 2 trend is fried chicken sandwiches and what the report calls chicken sandwiches 3.0, which includes spicy and sweet-heat fusion flavors on chicken. More than 70% of those surveyed said the chicken sandwich wars are still in play.

Meanwhile, flatbread sandwiches and healthier wraps took the No. 5 spot on the list of Top 10 trends. It’s easy to see why sales of convenient sandwiches have surged in the foodservice arena where takeout, drive-thru and delivery dominate over on-premises dining.

The report points to pent-up demand for restaurant experiences that are difficult to duplicate at home, but it’s hard to predict that off-premises dining, where affordable handheld sandwiches play a major role, will lose popularity any time soon.

“Remote work is having an exponential impact on when and what consumers order from restaurants, both on- and off-premises. Traditional meal periods are blurring thanks to the combination of access to menu options all hours of the day and consumers with very flexible schedules,” the report stated. “Every daypart, from breakfast to snacks, presents opportunity to entice customers.”

Bakers should look to offer new menu suggestions that help restaurants bolster sales and offset the impact of rising ingredient and labor costs.