Oracles of the local F&B scene look into their crystal balls and tell us what they see for the year ahead.

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Arnon “KK” Hoontrakul
Bar Director, Opiumbkk Bar

It’s been less than a year since reopening, and things appear to be pretty much back in full swing. In Thailand, despite mask-wearing individuals, foodies and bar crawlers are out soaking up all the missed opportunities of yesteryears.

During the shutdowns, an army of colourful riders battled out on the streets of Bangkok for delivery supreme of anything from bubble teas and celebrity-endorsed takeaway meals to discounted everything from alcohol merchants—despite Thailand’s infamous laws working against them. 

This year, however, the urge for selfies and likes will no doubt bring back the masses to physical outlets, thus helping restaurants, cafes, and bars to get back on their feet. Expect to see an explosion of openings. Fine dining establishments will be taking over Bangkok with a vengeance and not with just imported names and cuisines, but Thai as well. Geographical indications (GI), sustainability, and waste reduction will be on every chef’s agenda, and as both producers and consumers catch on to the importance of GI, you will see more mention of how your food came to be on your table. 

Good news for bargoers: greater choices and an influx of foreign talents will further shine the spotlight on Bangkok’s bar scene on the global map. Importers are gearing up, and we have already seen a few introductions of previously difficult-to-source aperitifs, as well as the further adoption of mezcal into regular bar programmes. Equipment such as the rotovap (rotary evaporator) will shake up the playing field with the transformation of more Thai ingredients into liquid flavours. All of these factors will raise the bar (pun intended) of cocktails with out-of-the-box pairing profiles.

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Valentin Iulian
On Trade Premise Manager, Alchemy Wines & Spirits Asia

This year will bring changes on many fronts. When considering the past three years, 2023 brings proof of the market’s resilience and the consumer’s ability to adapt to and set new trends. I’m positive that the industry will overall improve.

Personally, I’m interested in how spirits brands evolve and approach ever-changing trends and consumer habits, particularly those influenced by tech and social media. Social interactions have shifted a lot in the past years, with the public engaging more and more in the digital space, a reality which is unlikely to revert despite the ability to go out again. Spirit brands are understandably keen on participating in the online space, allocating immense resources to build digital presence and consumer engagement. I’ll be interested to see how experiences typically enjoyed IRL, like getting a drink at the bar or visiting a distillery, can be enhanced or virtually augmented. On this point: Jose Cuervo just launched their virtual distillery in the Metaverse. Shots anyone?

The digital marketplace has, nevertheless, made local and niche products more accessible to a wider audience. Small producers and start-up brands can see success within their grasp, where profit returns at faster speeds. We will see a boom in micro-distilleries and locally-inspired gins and other spirits, along with key terms like “terroir”, “locality”, and “provenience” becoming crucial to brand building.

The celebrity-owned tequila trend provided (sadly) an attractive business model for investors and entrepreneurs. In this environment, safeguarding traditions is crucial to avoid the diminishing of standards and quality for the sake of flashy influence. Looking on the bright side, this is an opportunity to support brands that truly create value locally and enrich local communities. With every drink ordered at a bar or every story posted online, there’s the opportunity to encourage and validate moral industry practices and sustainable farming, such as the work of carbon-neutral distillery Four Pillars Gin—one of the brands I’m invested in and excited about, in 2023.

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 Pruepat “Prang” Songtieng

Food Journalist

In my dreams, we are already drinking dirty martinis on Mars, but as the effects of climate change are knocking on our doors, sustainability is the keyword for this year.

We haven’t yet exhausted our options for going even greener. We’ll be seeing culinary experts go the distance to find the best of what our precious local soils have to offer, in an effort to bring something new to the table. Local chefs won’t be the only ones emphasising local wisdom and heritage either; international chefs will be joining in on the fun, too. We’ll see more farm-to-plate and zero-waste concepts popping up all over the country, from the mountaintops in Chiang Rai to the sandy beaches of Samui. These concepts will be beneficial to every sector amidst the inflation that’s in the air.

Health has become a more important topic in the kitchen, accelerated by the pandemic. As F&B people are hitting the gym more, their creations reflect their fitter mindsets. Since the arrival of the low ABV trend back in late 2019, leading restaurants and bars are now expanding their booze-less drink selections to meet consumer demands. Non-alcoholic bars will soon become a thing, along with new buzzwords for sans-alcohol drinks as “mocktail” goes out of style.

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Kieren James

F&B Consultant

There’s more happening now in terms of innovation than ever before, making it a tough time for predictions, but I’ll do my best. 

We’ll definitely be seeing a larger focus on sustainability, as more options to combat wastage come to the forefront. One such solution to keep an eye out for is ecoSpirits, a closed-loop distribution system that eliminates packaging waste in the spirits supply chain. Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for premium sustainable options and are actively seeking them out. If you’re not making sustainable choices in your business now, you should certainly start or get left behind!

Asia spirits are on the rise, and it goes beyond the big four categories (whisky, rum, vodka, and gin)—thank goodness! As an advocate for Asian producers, it’s great to see them thriving and bars in the region as well as globally looking to Asia for quality spirits products.

Re-distilled cocktails have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, and it makes sense. At the same time, I hope to see the tail end of this trend in 2023 with a more thoughtful replacement.

We’ll continue to see growth in the non/low ABV category in the West. Will it rub off on our corner of the globe? I’m not so sure, but Neuropsychopharmacology—the science behind non-alcoholic drinks that give you a buzz comparable to booze without the harmful stuff—might. This falls into a similar category as CBD drinks, which are rising in popularity with options already on the market. I’m excited to see where this goes.

Oh, and it’s time to move on from milk punches. They’ve had their moment. Just let them go!

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Michelle Goh and Pongcharn “Top” Russel
Chef-Owners, Mia Restaurant

Though we never really know how a restaurant operates behind closed doors, it’s safe to say that sustainability must start with the staff. We feel that fine dining restaurants will focus more on empowering and retaining talent as a core business value in 2023. Long gone are the days of forcing staff to work in unethical environments. Staff empowerment and work-life balance should and will become a norm in fine dining establishments.

Like fashion, food trends, too, come in and out of style in cycles. Just like how some years ago, serving anything charred, smoked, or blackened (to the point of no return) was considered to be trendy, we feel like fermentation will take the same route back into the closet. Even though we are both personally fans of the ancient cooking technique, we feel that customers care about your “fermentation room” as much as our cats care about our kimchi. We are sure that fermentation will make a comeback sometime in the future, but for now, it’s due to take a back seat. (Nevertheless, we will still be fermenting a lot of stuff at Mia ‘cause it’s delicious.)

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The Prophets Have Spoken

The Prophets Have Spoken Written by Gastronomer Lifestyle  March 8, 2023 Share this post Oracles of the local F&B scene look into their crystal balls

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