Restaurants to focus on quality in 2010: Mintel

by Bryan Salvage
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CHICAGO — Mintel Menu Insights, a service that tracks U.S. menu trends, released five predictions for 2010, indicating the restaurant industry will focus more on high-quality food and ingredients to lure in diners next year.

"Restaurants 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, registered dietitian and senior analyst for Mintel Menu Insights. "In 2010, we expect menus to go back to the basic roots of good food and drink."

The following are trends Mintel predicts for 2010:

  • Classically simple — Chefs will harness the power of classic combinations and simple, pure ingredients. So far in 2009, the top new menu item for chain restaurants is an all-American 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 — Next year, watch chefs add a restaurant-grown touch where they can: locally sourced meats and produce, for example. "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" — Half of Americans are spending less at restaurants because of the economy, so it's time for restaurants to come to their customers. Burger King is one of the latest to sell its food (French fries) in retail stores. Expect more retail-restaurant connections in 2010. More restaurants will also uphold relationships with customers by using iPhone apps for menu changes and online ordering.
  • Inherent health — Although almost nine in 10 Americans think eating healthy is important, 63% said it's difficult at restaurants because there aren't enough healthy items on the menus. This year included 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 July, four in five adults said they'd eaten ethnic food at a restaurant in the past month. Restaurants will increasingly pinpoint specific regions — Tuscany, Brazil, Morocco, or even within the U.S., North Carolina BBQ —to develop tomorrow's ethnic food.
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