The ingredients, recipes and strategies that will drive menus in the year.
This article first appeared in the 1 December 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
Yes, sustainability, burgers and the farm-to-table movement will still be a big deal across the foodservice spectrum in 2010, but what else will be all the rage in the year ahead?
Each of the following 20 top menu trends R&I identifies for the coming year ties back to one or more of these themes, as foodservice operators do everything they can to position themselves for success at the dawn of a new decade. The trends below are a list, not a ranking.
1. Pot roast and brisket and stew, oh my! Homey favorites spotlighting affordable cuts are the order of the day for comfort- and value-minded diners.
2. Asian + Latin = A dynamic duo. The Twitter-driven frenzy over Los Angeles' Kogi truck and its signature Korean tacos gets at least some of the credit for this latest fusion craze, which will only get bigger in 2010.
3. Midday dining deals. With customers cutting back on dining out far more at dinner than at other dayparts, many operators are turning to speed- and value-oriented lunch specials in an effort to grab more midday dining dollars.
4. Beer, there and everywhere. Whether diners view specialty brews as an affordable luxury in a down economy or they've simply grown more enamored of the drinks' frothy charms, beer's star is still rising at restaurants, with operators sourcing craft and seasonal labels, promoting menu pairings and themed dinners, and opening beer-centric pubs and eateries.
5. Chains build better burgers. Premium burgers represent the ultimate marriage of value and indulgence, so it's no wonder that restaurant chains are following the lead of high-end chefs and dedicated fast-casual concepts and nudging up America's favorite sandwich a few notches.
6. Are eggs the new bacon? Eggs are everywhere on menus-draped over burgers and pizzas, tucked into sandwiches, and showcased in dolled-up renditions of classic deviled and Scotch eggs as bar snacks and appetizers.
7. Drugstore-counter desserts. The retro-dessert trend just won't quit, and this time, spiffed-up shakes and floats are taking the spotlight. GET THE RECIPE: Crop Bistro's Old School Mocha Float
8. Big-name chefs take it down a(nother) notch. The drive toward downscale dining continues: Witness Big Star, Chicago chef Paul Kahan's just-opened dive bar/taco shack; Il Cane Rosso, the San Francisco sandwich shop from Coi Chef-owner Daniel Patterson; and Bar Symon, Michael Symon's gastropub-style spot in suburban Cleveland.
9. Meatless meals. Americans aren't quite embracing vegetarianism en masse, but eschewing meat more often in the interest of health and environmental sustainability is most definitely in vogue.
10. Deep-fried and fabulous. Bone-in fried chicken is the latest unlikely darling of upscale dining rooms, but nontraditional deep-fried fare is trendy, too. GET THE RECIPE: Sou'wester's Fried Apple Pie
11. Fast, casual fine-dining. Restaurants are rolling out special menus that cut the cost of multicourse meals and/or trim down dining time.
12. Low-carbon-footprint dining. Reducing carbon footprints-the total amount of greenhouse gases produced by a particular activity, event or company-offers operators a holistic approach to going green.
13. Morning meals shape up. Nearly 20% of consumers say they'd be more likely to eat out for breakfast on weekdays if more-healthful morning menu options were available, and operators are paying heed.
14. Liquor goes local. Whiskey, gin, vodka and other spirits sourced from nearby specialty and small-batch distillers are the latest de rigueur product for operators who have locavore leanings. GET THE RECIPE: TASTE's Bell Blossom cocktail
15. Coal fires up pizza. What gives coal-fired ovens a leg up on those fueled by wood alone? It's all about the heat.
16. Thank you for smoking. From the subtle notes of fruitwoods to the more-assertive marks of mesquite and hickory, smoking lets chefs imbue layers of flavor into products without adding fat, sugar or sodium.
17. Gluten-free gets its day. The estimated three million Americans with celiac disease (which causes adverse reactions to foods containing gluten) are finding more menus tailored to their needs.
18. High time for tea. This favorite of the Brits is finally getting its due on American menus. GET THE RECIPE: 17 North's Roadside Tea
19. Lamb goes off the rack. Foodservice kitchens are still turning out chops aplenty, but look for off-the-bone cuts of lamb to step into starring roles on menus, too. GET THE RECIPE: Westchester Country Club's Braised Lamb Meatballs
20. Back to basics. The image of chefs industriously canning and pickling produce, curing their own salumi and butchering beef, lamb and pork from primal cuts seems plucked from a quainter past, yet a growing number are embracing these back-to-basics techniques.