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24 Big Menu Ideas – US Food Trends

21 January 2009
24 Big Menu Ideas – US Food Trends

R&I examines two dozen trends, influences and ingredients that will be prominent this year, enticing consumers to dine out in a tough economy.

This article first appeared in the 1 January 2009 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).

R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. Visit the R&I website to find out more about the magazine or to search its recipe database.

By Allison Perlik, Senior Editor

Necessity is a potent force for inspiring menu creativity, and the high-anxiety state of the economy is stirring up quite a need. Faced with an onslaught of operational challenges and customers who find their discretionary dining dollars far less plentiful, operators are digging deep to discover which foods, flavors and preparations will draw business to their doors.

More than ever, guests themselves inform this process. Each of the emerging and continuing trends R&I identifies in the pages ahead falls under the umbrella of one or more of the following consumer-driven themes:

More for the Money:

Dressing Down: Simplicity is in, whether it be in ingredients, preparations and presentations or in restaurants' concepts, menus and designs.

Next-Generation Comfort Food: Hearty, soul-satisfying dishes are in high demand, but Americans' more-sophisticated and worldly palates mean comfort food has expanded beyond traditional meatloaf and mac and cheese to include everything from Thai curries to pasta carbonara.

Earth-Friendly: Looming larger for menu development in 2009 is Americans' escalating interest in foods produced locally, organically and sustainably by fairly treated growers and laborers.

Self-Determination: Diners want their say in every element of dining, from selecting which sauces will adorn their steaks to tailoring portion sizes.

Easy Indulgences: Consumers might be cutting back on $4 lattes, but they're still looking for small edible (and drinkable) affordable pleasures to treat themselves.

Health by Addition: Americans still are avoiding trans fats and looking to reduce sodium intake, but they're also trying health-promoting components such as whole grains, antioxidants and probiotics.

Global Influences: The world is growing smaller thanks to increased travel, easier ingredient shipping and the Internet, helping raise the profile of cuisines from such less-familiar regions as the Middle East and South America.

24 Big Menu Ideas For '09

  1. Middle-Eastern Spice Blends
  2. Everyday Excitement
  3. Wood Building
  4. Oodles of Noodles
  5. Off-Shore Spirits
  6. D-I-Y Dessert
  7. Growing Partnerships
  8. Hole-Some Treats
  9. Fast-Food Forward
  10. The Culture of Cheese
  11. Just Say Yo
  12. Izakaya: The Next Gastropubs?
  13. Sea-to-Sea Sustainability
  14. Flatbreads Foreign and Familiar
  15. A Stand Against Sodium?
  16. Downsizing at the Drive-Thru
  17. The Line on Lima
  18. Playing with Pintxos
  19. Fish ‘N Chips
  20. Making the Cut
  21. Love Those Lentils
  22. Southern Comfort
  23. Grazing
  24. Breakfast Breaks Out
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