Hospo by the Decade

A look back at the Aussie Foodservice Scene in the 90s

You’d be forgiven for thinking the 1990s were forgettable years in the foodservice industry. After all, the nineties were the decade that brought us focaccias and Caesar salads, everything you ordered had sundried tomatoes and if it didn’t it came in a ‘stack’. Nineties food seems to be a little funny when you look back on it, but there were some big developments that changed the Australian food scene as we know it.


Fat is bad.

For better or worse, the nineties brought us the ‘low fat’ diets that many still swear by. Products in the supermarket began advertising their fat contents, and butter, cream and oil became the bad guys in the eyes of the consumer. Salad dressing was out the window and skinny milk was the chosen carrier for coffee. Fast-forward to 2020 and people are more health-conscious than ever, with carbs the new ‘enemy’ and fat less of a focus. Some people have even adopted the trending Keto diet, which actually calls for high-fat consumption.


Asian cuisines go mainstream

In the early nineties, Chinese food was the only Asian cuisine to have really made a dent in the Australian food scene. But some clever chefs changed all that as Vietnamese rice paper rolls and suckling pig started sneaking into the Western restaurant environments by way of places like Victoria St, Melbourne. Soon, Japanese cuisine followed suit and Australians went mad for sushi which went from a rare treat to a casual and affordable takeaway staple.


Online recipes

When we talk about the huge changes in the nineties, it’s hard to ignore the evolution of the internet, which had monumental impact on how we eat, dine and cook. It was only a matter of time before people started to share recipes and cooking advice online. Before this you would only have this type of information if you forked out for magazines and cookbooks. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier now! You can visit our online library of recipes for example.


Chef as entrepreneur and entertainer

The nineties saw chefs evolve from a back of house role, to become more front and centre. We started seeing more chefs owning venues and we saw chefs venturing out onto the floor to present their food to customers. Chefs started to garner attention and companies turned to them to endorse their products following the elevation of their status. In the US, the Food Network launched in 1993 and the chef’s role as an entertainer was cemented in culture.



It was this era where the term ‘fusion’ began appearing on menus. Chefs were experimenting with Asian, Mediterranean, and South American flavours, all in one dish. Over the years we’ve seen almost every variation you could think of, with some venues basing their whole menu around a combination of traditional cuisines (Asian fusion for example). It’s always interesting to see unique flavours unite, in 2020 chefs are more inclined to pare back ingredients to instead focus on one or two main flavours.



Looking back 30 years, the foodservice scene has certainly changed. The nineties brought us some trends that have stood the test of time and others that have (perhaps fortunately) fallen away – anyone ordered a focaccia recently? Were you working in foodservice in the nineties? We’d love to hear from you about your experience and what was on your menu at the time. Get in touch via our Facebook page.