This post is by SmartBlog on Restaurants and Restaurant SmartBrief contributor Janet Forgrieve.
Restaurant experts, trade groups and media outlets will soon begin issuing their predictions for the hot food trends of 2011. Before that happens, though, we thought it might be fun to take a look at how a few of their 2010 prognostications have played out.
First, the finances
Predictions that consumers would probably dine out less often this year seemed to prove true for the most part. Recent Zagat surveys in New York and London reported that residents in those cities have cut back on restaurant meals. More recent numbers show the trend may be shifting as we move toward a new year — a Bloomberg story this week said healthy gains at casual chains may portend a rise in consumer spending in the coming months.
Focus on local
Just about every prediction list for 2010 included an increased focus on local produce and on-site gardens, a call that was right on target, according to numerous news stories. Food harvested as close as possible to a restaurant’s kitchen proved a hot trend throughout the year, from Sondra Bernstein’s organized Farm Project in Sonoma to several growing efforts to capture wild ingredients through foraging, and it’s one that’s growing even hotter as food safety issues such as this summer’s massive egg recall shed a brighter light on the origins of our food.
Nutritional concerns went hand-in-hand with the local focus, and we’ve seen a growing interest in the subject throughout the year. First lady Michelle Obama launched her war on childhood obesity by recruiting the nation’s chefs; British celeb chef Jamie Oliver sought to make history — and reality TV — by turning around the high-fat eating habits in one West Virginia town; and the federal government will soon require chain restaurants to post nutritional information for all to see. Many chains aren’t waiting for the rules — they’re already tweaking their menus to include less fat and fewer calories.
An annual report from restaurant consultants at Joseph Baum & Whiteman Co. focused many of its trend predictions on the impact of the economy, including what the group called “upscaling the downscale.” The predictions posited that consumers craved lower bills but still wanted quality dining experiences, positive news for gourmet burger joints, which saw their ranks swell this year, with new offerings including Tom & Eddie’s from McDonald’s veterans Ed Rensi and Tom Dentice, and New York’s 4Food, a build-your-own burger place with a strong social media component.
Another trend identified in the report has been playing out as supermarkets across the country increase the quality and diversity of their prepared-food offerings, luring additional dining-out dollars from consumers. One way many chains have found to counter the trend is putting more of their branded items on grocery store shelves.
Need we say more?
Last but not least
The Food Network’s Top 10 list of dessert trends led with “The Unexpected Complement,” using bacon as an example of unusual additions to the sweets plate. The trend of adding the unexpected to desserts may continue in 2011, but at least one recent story in The Wall Street Journal food section indicates that bacon has become so ubiquitous this year that its presence in desserts no longer has the power to surprise.
What are your predictions for next year? Let readers see them here first.