Restaurant Food trends for 2011

According to the "What's Hot" annual survey issued by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), a greater focus on locally sourced food and on sustainability are just two trends that we'll see more of in 2011. Food service trend of 2011 will be walking the fine line between open disclosure and customer satisfaction.


Nearly two-thirds of diners say they want to eat healthier in 2011, but many complain that healthier food doesn't taste as good without the added sugar, sodium and fat.  Restaurants will continue to address this problem by swapping in healthier ingredients and positioning them to appear better-for-you.  Taco Bell has already begun this, reducing sodium at 150 stores in the Dallas market and Jason's Deli is now promoting its food as being free from high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and pesticides.


Also on tap for 2011, automated menus. Restaurants will continue to find new ways to marry convenience and technology and electronic order-takers will be a big hit with restaurants.  Automated-menus reduce the reliance on front-of-house staff and full-time employees-- thus cutting overhead costs.  Automated menus, in addition to mobile applications, will allow restaurants to reach a younger, more mobile consumer.


The local food movement will continue to grow in 2011, with a big push towards indigenous ingredients.  In 2011,  we will see restaurants incorporate more traditional or authentic ingredients into their dishes.  "Local" as an ingredient marketing claim has grown by 15 percent from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010, that figure is expected to rise in the coming year.


The top 10 menu trends for next year will be:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood

  2. Locally grown produce

  3. Sustainability as a culinary theme

  4. Nutritious kids' dishes

  5. Hyper-local items

  6. Children's nutrition as a culinary theme

  7. Sustainable seafood

  8. Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items

  9. Back-to-basics cuisines

  10. Farm-branded ingredients

Locally sourced food and a focus on sustainability is not just popular among certain segments of consumers anymore; it has become more mainstream. Diners are requesting to know where their food comes from, and are concerned with how their choices affect the world.


This year mini is the new buzz word. Mini everything: mini portions, mini desserts. Split your meal with a friend.  You'll not only save calories but dollars too.



Rounding out the top 20 hot menu trends are artisan liquor, locally-produced wine and beer, smaller portions for a smaller price, organic produce, nutrition as a culinary theme, culinary cocktails, newly fabricated cuts of meat, fruit/vegetable children's side items, ethnic-inspired breakfast items and artisan cheese.


The new hot ingredients for 2011 will be:

  • Neck. Lamb, beef, goat and pork neck.

  • Whey. In salads and sauces.

  • Kumquats. In salads, relishes and desserts.

  • Pimento cheese. Smooth, spread able, spicy and nostalgic.

  • Smoking. Smoked olive oil, cumin and butter.

  • Hay. Used for roasting and smoking, such as the leeks roasted on hay at Castagna Restaurant in Portland, Ore.

  • Hummus. In sauces, spreads and ingredients.

  • Popcorn. In various courses, such as the popcorn ice cream at Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar in Sonoma, Calif.

  • Pretzels. Pretzel sticks and used as a crust, like in the pretzel-bit-covered crab cake at David Burke Townhouse in New York.

  • Honey. Chefs are developing partnerships with local beekeepers for use in sauces and dressings.


With so many people eating away from home, hopefully these changes will help reduce the obesity problem today.


Source:  National Restaurant Association Full story at: research/whats_hot_2011.pdf


Dated 10 January 2011

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