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?
Pinpointing the next menu megahit is beyond the prognosticating powers of most operators (who saw sliders coming?), but diners are predictable in one sense: In some way or another, they'll gravitate toward foods that make them feel good-good about the flavors; good about the ingredients and where they come from; and of course, good about what they're spending.
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. Click on each item for more details, including examples, ideas and recipes.
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.
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.
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