What the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 tells us about the industry

When it comes to celebrating top grub, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is the Godfather presiding over the food industry. This year’s ceremony in Bilbao drew the great and the good from the world’s top eateries to celebrate pioneering restaurants and chefs. The resultant list gives some key insights into what has and hasn’t changed in the food industry as a whole. Here are three of the key takeaways.

Gender equality has improved (but not a lot)

Clare Smyth

The number of female chefs on the list increased from last year’s three, to five. While that’s an improvement, it’s also a tiny fraction of a 50-strong list of restaurants. It’s also surprising considering the food industry’s recent efforts to make itself more hospitable to all, supporting teams and nurturing talent, tackling the image of kitchens as male-dominated and aggressive and having more open discussions about hours and splitting shifts.

Previously labelled ‘insulting’ by industry experts for even existing at all, the ‘Best Female Chef’ award was once again hotly contested. After all, a chef is a chef, regardless of gender. This year it was awarded to the UK’s own Clare Smyth for her solo debut at Core in London, but strangely the restaurant itself was missing from the list.

In an acceptance speech that touched on gender equality and improving the work environment in kitchens, Smyth said throughout her career she’d been asked, ‘What is it like to be a female chef?’ to which she replied, ‘I’m not sure what you mean, because I’ve never been a male chef.’

The benefits of a gender diverse workplace and equal hiring practices have been well documented. Higher engagement, more creativity and better talent recruitment, to name just a few. A recent study by McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21 percent more likely to have above-average profits.

Peruvian food is having ITS moment

Ceviche London

Consumers have already developed a taste for ceviche, quinoa and of course the pisco sour, but this year we predict a boom in Peruvian fast food offerings like blue and purple corn, pork-belly stuffed chicharrón sandwiches and salchipapas – a sausage and French fries mash up, served with coleslaw. You can even expect edgier options like beef heart skewers to enter the mainstream. Three restaurants from Peru made it onto this year’s list, including one – Central in Lima – that made the top five – no mean feat for a relatively small country. Latin American cuisine has rocketed in popularity and this shows no sign of slowing. The National Restaurant Association named it as one of 2018’s top 20 food trends.

Expect to see a lot more Peruvian food and drink in 2018/19.

Sustainable business strategies need to be ramped up

Azurmendi restaurant

Sustainability has come a long way since 2014. That year, the Sustainable Restaurant Award was launched and awarded to Spanish restaurant Azurmendi, which at the time was deemed to be doing everything possible to care for the planet and the local community. Last year, Japan’s L’Effervescence won for its nose-to-tail and root-to-fruit approaches, ensuring that there is no unnecessary waste. And this year the trophy was handed back to Azurmendi, which improved its sustainability rating from an impressive 84% to 93% over a four-year period, proving that in the search for a sustainable future, there are no limits that cannot be broken.

The banning of plastic straws is just the beginning of a seismic shift in attitude, which will cause businesses to step up to the challenge of implementing sustainable practices.

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