Restaurant menus to focus on quality, not just cost, in 2010

November 20, 2009

Chicago (November 20, 2009)–How do you follow up a wild year of $5 menus, gourmet meals for paupers’ prices and buy one get one restaurant specials? You return to quality, that’s how.
“Restaurants are redefining ‘value’ on the menu, moving away from the cost-savings that were so important earlier this year to incorporate high quality ingredients, classic flavor combinations and authentic, old-fashioned preparations. In 2010, we expect menus to go back to the basic roots of good food and drink,” states Maria Caranfa, Registered Dietitian and senior analyst for Mintel.
Trend #1: Classically simpleMany restaurants did less pioneering during the recession and what did they discover? Simple sells. In 2010, Mintel predicts chefs will harness the power of classic combinations and simple, pure ingredients. So far in 2009, the top new menu item for chain restaurants is an all-American classic: the burger. Look for more nostalgic, decadent pleasures on the menu: bacon, lobster, classic cocktails, milk-and-cookies and donut hole desserts.
Trend #2: Restaurant-grownJust because people don’t have time to cook doesn’t mean they don’t crave homemade food. Next year, watch chefs add a homegrown–or rather, restaurant-grown–touch where they can: artisan breads and cheeses, house-infused spirits, locally sourced produce and meats. “Rustic” will be the buzzword that describes imperfectly-shaped pizza crusts and mashed potatoes. Restaurant-grown items are also a great way for restaurants to differentiate themselves.
Trend #3: Dining out…in“If you build it, they will come” isn’t working quite the way it used to. Half of Americans are spending less at restaurants because of the economy, so it’s time for restaurants to come to them. Burger King is one of the latest to sell its food (French fries) in retail stores, but expect more retail-restaurant connections in 2010. Additionally, more restaurants will uphold relationships with customers by using iPhone apps for menu changes and online ordering.
Trend #4: Inherent healthNearly nine in 10 Americans think eating healthy is important, but 63% say it’s difficult at restaurants because there aren’t enough healthy items. It’s time for that to change: 2009 saw a trend towards healthier menus, but 2010 will see a sharp increase in good-for-you food and drink. Tomorrow’s healthy menus will feature inherently nutritious items–those with fiber, omega-3, vitamins and antioxidants–that deliver on flavor too.
Trend #5: Regional ethnicIn this great melting pot, it’s no wonder people love ethnic food. In July, four in five adults told Mintel they’d eaten ethnic food at a restaurant in the past month. Cuisines like Mexican, Chinese and Italian have become so mainstream, however, that it’s time to dig deeper. Restaurants will increasingly pinpoint specific regions–Tuscany, Brazil, Morocco, or even within the US, North Carolina BBQ–to develop tomorrow’s ethnic food.

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