What will be hot in 2016?

04 March 2016 by
What will be hot in 2016?

The UK is a melting pot of cuisines and diners are ever-more demanding, so what should caterers put on their menus this year? The Caterer brought a group of operators together at Quo Vadis in Soho for a round table, sponsored by Premier Foods, to find out how to tackle trends in 2016. Rosalind Mullen reports

The Panel

Ben Fordham, founder, Benito's HatSteve Gotham, director on insight, M&C AllegraMark Rigby, executive chef, Premier Foods
Henrik Ritzen, executive chef, LuytensStephen Tozer, co-founder, Le BabCandice Webber, concessions and sales developement chef, London City, EliorWhat will be the greatest influences of dish and menu development in 2016?Mark Rigby (MR) Customers are becoming increasingly aware of allergens and are interested in how food is prepped. Caterers need to deliver quality food while making sure prices remain low, as price is still a key influence for consumers when choosing where to eat out. Ben Fordham (BF) At Benito's Hat, we cook our food fresh, but concepts with more than 20 sites are probably not prepping on-site. We try to tell customers what we do, but they often don't know that the bigger operators are simply opening a packet. Henrik Ritzen (HR) Is the customer prepared to pay more for freshly cooked food though? BF I think the challenge is in getting the message across to justify the price. So do people understand the concept of paying more for products like upmarket burgers or kebabs?Stephen Tozer (ST) The quality burger market has become established with the likes of Byron, Gourmet Burger and Burger & Lobster, so burgers are now almost a staple. We want to do that with kebabs. Ironically, the authentic Turkish places are less well known. You can put a place on the map if you do it well. We make everything from scratch, using ingredients with high provenance and thinner bread. We start with vegetables that are in season and work back to which meats go with them. We match acidity, bite, textures and flavours. Traditional kebab makers don't match the meat with the vegetables, but in other cuisines we do. For instance, venison comes with related accompaniments. HR It is about educating people. It is the same item - a burger or kebab - but made with different ingredients, so they need to know why it is priced at a certain level. MR Re-education is important. People knew what a burger was in the 1970s and so they buy into the updated concept because they understand it. They "get it" from the start. How do you gauge the popularity of new menu items and how do you encourage customers to try them?ST We use feedback forms. A lot of menu items take ages to develop and if customers don't like something, we take it off. BF We try to steer the customer. We suggest specials and highlight that this item goes with that. You can't tell people what to choose, though, only advise them. Candice Webber (CW) We introduced a new juice bar where customers could select any combination of fruits. But we had to give them a list of feasible pairings to stop them choosing beetroot and banana, for instance. Can the independents steal a march because customers want authentic food rather than a cookie-cutter product?CW In 2002, when I arrived from Australia, you couldn't find good coffee in the UK. Now the independents are getting a following. Back in Sydney, there is an anti-establishment ethos and they don't want coffee chains. They've closed down Starbucks except in tourist spots. ST I wonder how we should define authentic? Le Bab is an independent, but we don't cook traditional kebabs, so in that way they are not authentic. But we have an artisan product in terms of originality and the sourcing of ingredients, so in that way we are authentic. MR Customers want food that is shown respect and a level of detail - they buy into that. According to Premier Foods' research, the biggest trend predicted by caterers was healthy eating, and most consumers mentioned they would like to see more fish on menus. Is healthy eating out more commonplace or do people still go out to treat themselves? CW At Elior, customers may want healthy options, but they also want a treat once a week. Some of the staff will have been to the gym; others won't. We need to cater for all types. Our business is open 24 hours a day - executives may want a grill at 3am. We have to stay ahead of food trends to cater for the demographic, but we also need staples - comfort food. Coconut oil is massive; hemp and chia seeds are coming through. Only 10% of our customers understand these products and only a minority of people are on special diets, but at Elior we still need to cater for them - and this market may grow. ST There is a sense that consumers want wholesome food, but they are not obsessed with the details of carb content and so on. People are increasingly anti-processed food - but they will still eat a dirty burger if it is made from scratch with good ingredients. We haven't set out to serve healthy kebabs, but they are made from good stuff and people perceive them as healthier, even though we haven't marketed them as such. There is no untraceable meat or preservatives, so they are healthy in their own way. BF People are looking at more balanced diets. We see that and we have nutritional information if they ask. We serve 10,000 customers a week, but only a couple of those customers will ask for a carb count. We get the message across that our ingredients are good and, if you eat in the right way, you are going in the right direction. What about the health trend when it comes to fine-dining? HR We are noticing health awareness at Lutyens. We do more breakfasts than a year ago and people are choosing poached eggs and avocado over a full English. We sell a lot of fish. About 80% of our sales is fish and the menu is 60% fish. We get through 40kg-50kg of cod a week. And people don't drink at lunchtime. CW Yes. Breakfast is the new lunch - I think breakfast is getting bigger. It is massive in Australia and is starting to kick off more here. There is an evolution of cafés serving better breakfasts, such as Granger & Co. It's true that the spend per head for breakfast is lower, but juices are £5. We put out bags of fruit so people can see how much they are getting in their glass and sales have gone up. If breakfast is becoming more of an eating out mealtime, is it simple for operators to alter their offer?BF The breakfast burrito works at our King's Cross outlet, but it doesn't work in the City, where people want grab and go food that they understand. Offering tacos for breakfast is a challenge in the UK. We may try again in a residential area - and this time talk to the customer more and educate them. Mexican food has had a bad name in the past, but chains like Wahaca have helped us to re-educate people. Dishoom has done a good job at breakfast, but it isn't busy. Their bacon naan roll is great, but there is still a long journey ahead. Have you noticed a trend towards spicier food? BF We have mild and spicy and super-hot choices. But some people don't want even a small amount of spice. CW I was brought up on Thai food in Australia, but since living in the UK my tolerance is lower. ST Our kebabs have chilli, but they are not hot. We err on the side of caution. HR We experiment and ferment ingredients to make kimchi and choucroute. BF We need both crowd-pleasers and to keep things interesting to bring in new customers. There needs to be a balance between consistency and innovation. Allergens, fads and the science of cooking - how far do you go? While the trend towards healthier eating was noted by all of the panellists, several operators questioned whether consumers really understand - or care - about the science behind foodstuffs. A case in point was the type of oil used in cooking, as some people think that heating olive oil to a high temperature creates trans fats. In the casual-dining sector, Ben Fordham at Benito's Hat and Stephen Tozer at Le Bab reckoned that few if any of their customers showed an interest in that level of detail. For Candice Webber at Elior, however, it was a different story. "In our business, people are interested," she said. "In one contract we feed 1,500 people a day and lots of diners ask us about allergies. If we have 30 hot dishes they all need to be specified. We keep the information under the tills and have a daily briefing. Customers need to have faith in you. We even have a 'contained nut area'." She added that the company's development team tests all the dishes, and allergens, prices and so on are listed on a database. "It's a big piece of work," she admitted. hat brought about the question of whether allergies are causing dishes to drop off the menu - dishes that contain nuts, for instance. Fordham said that Benito's Hat doesn't have any nut options, and added: "One dish is not worth it." Premier Foods' Mark Rigby agreed: "Allergens hit the independents as a bombshell," he said. "How do you put the processes into the kitchen for segregated airflow, goods in and goods out and so on?" Nevertheless, the panellists agreed that nuts were bang on-trend as a high source of protein in many healthy diets. Webber asked: "The raw food movement uses a lot of nuts, so are we not going to listen to the 5% of customers who follow it?" The gluten-free customer base is also small, but the panel recognised the implications of ignoring it. "In fine-dining, 20% of people want gluten-free," said Henrik Ritzen at Lutyens, "but it's the tyranny of the minority. It only takes one person in the party to dictate the gluten-free menu. Customers may decide where to eat because a person in their group is intolerant so you can't afford to ignore diets on your menu." Although not all panellists had embraced gluten-free menus, there was general agreement that awareness of allergies was on the increase. And there was some optimism about the fact that gluten-free flours and other such products were improving in terms of taste and quality. Trends for 2016 Premier Foods conducted research to inform its Insights & Trends 2016 report and it found that: •36% of caterers took advantage of the trend for tapas or sharing platters during 2015. •65% of caterers said they would be interested in the macro trend for food and drink pairing. •biggest trend caterers predict is around health and nutrition. •Fish was the most popular answer when consumers were asked what they would like to see on menus next year, and chicken was second. •45% of consumers would like to see more Mediterranean dishes on a menu, 38% would like to see more Mexican and 37% more Thai. •The most-mentioned foods when consumers were asked which new trends they would like to see were fish, sushi or seafood, followed by healthier and lighter dishes. What the panel thought would be trending in 2016 •There will continue to be more grilled food. •Mexican food is on the up. •Culinary innovation won't stop - watch out for West African jollof cooking. •There is likely to be more Brazilian or South American concepts due to the Olympics. •Customers want value for money, even if they have to pay more - they just want to know why they are paying more. ![Premier Foods As one of Britain's largest food producers, Premier Foods prides itself on providing chefs with menu solutions based on consumer insight. Its new Insights & Trends 2016 includes the results from independent research with both caterers and consumers looking at new and future menu trends for the year ahead, in addition to insight-led recipes developed by executive chef Mark Rigby. With a portfolio of well-known brands, such as Bisto, Sharwood's, McDougalls and Ambrosia, Premier Foods offers chefs products they can trust and that will deliver consistent results time after time.
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