From Mark Brandau, Nation's Restaurant News
: Just as many households can expect to rebalance their
finances or lifestyle expectations in 2010, the restaurant industry can
expect to get back to basics as it recovers from a tumultuous 2009,
according to research firm Mintel.
The menu trends
analysts at Mintel outlined five projections for industry trends in
2010, and the unifying theme is a renewed focus on quality after a year
preoccupied mostly with cost and how-low-can-you-go value deals.
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,” said Maria Caranfa, a registered dietician and senior
analyst for Mintel. “In 2010, we expect menus to go back to the basic
roots of good food and drink.”
Mintel identified the following upcoming trends:
Mintel put it, over the past year chefs have discovered that “simple
sells.” Industry watchers can expect a greater emphasis on simple
ingredients and preparations and classic food combinations. Nowhere is
that more evident than the white-hot better-burger movement in quick
service and fast casual, where Five Guys Burgers and Fries,
Smashburger, The Counter, The Habit and many more brands vie for
supremacy of that American holy trinity: burgers, fries and shakes.
recent months, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Denny’s have all rolled out
their own versions of premium hamburgers, not only to compete with
trendy brands like Five Guys, but also to hang onto customers that may
have traded down from casual dining and upscale independents during the
On the other hand, Ruby Tuesday
recently moved to position itself in a more upscale-casual segment of
the industry with its upgraded decor and expanded menu. While the chain
is trying to increase its average check by selling more big-ticket
items like lobster and seafood pastas, it also is hoping to show that
quality and value aren’t mutually exclusive. Its bar program is
offering signature cocktails and well drinks for $5, but the liquor
used will remain premium brands like Bacardi, Beefeater and Jim Beam.
still will seek out menus loaded with “rustic” food made from locally
sourced ingredients, including some foods picked from on-site
restaurant gardens, Mintel predicts. As more chefs are recognized for a
commitment to growing much of their own ingredients or procuring them
from local sources — Chicago’s Rick Bayless and Seattle’s Jerry
Traunfeld spring to mind — more restaurants will look to differentiate
themselves in this way, the research firm said.
that the trend would be exclusive to chef-driven independent
restaurants. Quick-service chain Burgerville already has garnered
increased guest counts and sales with a seasonal-ingredient
limited-time offer that changes every month. The 39-unit brand is
showcasing local cranberries for the month of November, including a
turkey burger with cranberry and jalapeno salsa, sweet-cranberry
bourbon baked beans, and a cranberry-walnut tart for dessert.
Dining out ... in
guests cut back on actual visits to restaurants, some brands are
branching out beyond breakneck unit growth and developing more
online-ordering platforms or making inroads into retail sales, Mintel
Innovations in ordering are
everywhere in the pizza segment. Pizza Hut recently won two awards from
the Mobile Marketing Association for its smart-phone application, which
it said accounted for $1 million in sales this past year. Competitor
Domino’s chose not to develop a smart-phone app, opting instead to
build optimized mobile-ordering platforms for the Apple iPhone, Palm
Pre and Blackberry.
Meanwhile, grocery store
shelves are becoming more crowded with restaurant companies’ branded
items. While celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, California Pizza Kitchen and
T.G.I. Friday’s have been in the space for a while, brands such as
Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Bennigan’s and P.F. Chang’s have debuted new
retail products over the past year.
to Mintel research, nearly nine in 10 Americans think it’s important to
eat healthful meals, but 63 percent say that’s very difficult to
accomplish in restaurants because of a lack of healthful items.
many chain restaurants have been at this trend for a while, as calls
for legislation requiring the display of nutritional information or the
reduction of sodium levels in restaurant food have necessitated
innovation. Recent examples of more healthful menu initiatives include
Dunkin’ Donuts’ DDSmart line, Starbucks’ move away from high-fructose
corn syrup and KFC’s introduction of Kentucky Grilled Chicken.
addition, Romano’s Macaroni Grill continues to introduce more healthful
entrees in its ongoing menu makeover. For example, a reformulated
recipe for the chain's scallops and spinach salad contains 420
calories, and a new Lamb Spiedini dish coming out next week contains
noted that four in five Americans said they had eaten ethnic food at a
restaurant in July. The research firm projected that, because cuisine
types like Chinese, Mexican and Italian have become so mainstream,
“it’s time to dig deeper” and feature the staple foods of specific
regions, from Tuscany in Italy to North Carolina-style barbecue.
dinnerhouse chain Il Fornaio has integrated the tour of different
regional cuisines into its successful, long-running loyalty program,
Festa Regionale. The Corte Madera, Calif.-based chain gives its guests
a “Passaporto” in the mail and invites them to have the paper passport
stamped each time they eat from a monthly rotating menu featuring
cuisine from a different Italian region. In December, Il Fornaio will
showcase the food and wine of Sicily.
In addition to its Chicago headquarters, Mintel has offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai, China, and Sydney, Australia.
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