What’s in store next year for restaurants? Mintel Menu Insights, a service that tracks U.S. menu trends, identified five predictions for 2010. The trends reflect a greater focus on high quality ingredients, classic flavor combinations and authentic, old-fashioned preparations to lure in diners.
“In 2010, we expect menus to go back to the basic roots of good food and drink,” said registered dietitian Maria Caranfa, a senior analyst for Mintel Menu Insights. Here are Mintel’s top five restaurant trends for next year:
- Classically simple. Many 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. This year the top new menu items for chain restaurants is an all-America classic: the burger. Look for more nostalgic, decadent pleasures on the menu: bacon, lobster, classic cocktails, milk-and-cookies and donut hole desserts.
- Restaurant-grown. Just 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.
- Dining out in. “If you build it, they will come” isn’t working 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.
- Inherent health. Nearly 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 toward 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.
- Regional ethnic. In 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 U.S., North Carolina BBQ — to develop tomorrow’s ethnic food.