CHICAGO — Restaurant operators may be looking ahead to 2010 with an eye toward further cost-cutting measures after being challenged by one of the toughest years on record. But Chicago-based Technomic wants to remind foodservice operators that menu innovation will play an essential role for success in 2010 by enticing recession-weary diners with compelling reasons to eat out.

Technomic lists the following five trends as stand-outs for restaurant operators in 2010:

  • New spin on old favorites: comfort foods — Look for increased menuing of upscale comfort foods, with much activity in introducing simple foods with a small number of "real-food" ingredients. Interest in premium burgers and burger concepts will continue, with even greater emphasis on freshness, customization, toppings and condiment bars. Sandwich and other concepts will focus increasingly on hearty melts. Cassoulets, chili and other rustic bean-based dishes may get new respect.
  • Exploring new corners of Asia (and the world) — Korean foods (including Korean barbecue and Korean-style tacos) will hit the mainstream. Look for new interest in Indonesian and other Southeast Asian fare, as well. Expect to see continued emphasis on regional versions of ethnic cuisines, especially with Mexican and Italian fare.
  • Frontiers of flavor — Umami will become a household word, at least among foodies. Expressions of the savory, earthy "fifth taste" will range from burgers and other hearty meat dishes to truffle- or truffle oil-accented pasta, cheese, french fries and pizza. Starring in the American regional flavor pantheon is bourbon, used to sauce or spike everything from burgers to chili to desserts.
  • Back to the future: Tending our gardens and farms — Look for more chefs to have proprietary herb or vegetable gardens. The emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients will grow and flower. Fascination with heirloom farm products — from tomatoes to pork — will continue; by the 2010 holiday season, look for a flap of interest in heirloom poultry breeds.
  • Breakfast ’round the clock’ — Look for breakfast-style fare to become available all day (and night) at both full-service and limited-service eateries. As fast-food restaurants expand and upgrade their menus of budget-priced breakfast sandwiches and wraps, more full-service operators will be offering hearty brunch buffets well into the afternoon on weekends.