What attracts customers to a restaurant? While there's no right (or simple) answer, the food and drink on your menu obviously plays a large role. The National Restaurant Association tracks the trends popular among America's top chefs, and their latest report--based on the opinions of over 1,200 professionals--highlights 2014's most popular food preparation and presentation trends.
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Healthy: Overwhelmingly, 2014 looks to be all about healthy eating. From locally-sourced produce to nutrition-rich children’s menus, chefs are looking for better ways to feed the masses delicious dishes. This includes an emphasis on allergy-safe staples, such as gluten- and wheat-free options.
Sustainability: What’s healthy for the planet is also growing increasingly more important. The trend toward organic and safe fare is quickly becoming more of a standard than a trend. Restaurants have begun growing their own greens in order to control quality, and while there's waning interest in grass-fed meats, sustainable seafood options still remain a top priority.
Location, Location, Location: The top trends of 2014 are interlaced, which may be the key to their lasting power. A turn toward locally-produced fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry, and fish adds significantly to environmental efforts and providing diners with healthier options. Not surprisingly, restaurants are advertising with an emphasis on local branding as well, and consumers concerned with contaminated goods , hefty processing or chemicals are responding.
What's Changing and What's Not
Experts expect to see more demand in 2014 for foods like quinoa (and other non-wheat pastas), dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. Techniques like pickling and nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking are also seeing an upswing in restaurant kitchens. You can also expect social media marketing and smartphone apps to attract more attention, with customers looking to make reservations, order food, and even pay using their phones. However, some things aren't changing--classic comfort foods, like BBQ, fried chicken, and Italian food, will still have staying power in restaurants across the country.
On Their Way Out
Along with grass-fed beef and free-range poultry, organic coffee, Greek yogurt, and sweet potato creations have fallen out of favor with chefs. Our obsessions with fun-shaped foods for kids, fish offal, bacon-flavored desserts, and gazpacho are also on the decline.
Wines & Spirits News
For culinary management or hotel & restaurant management students interested in libations, the local trend will remain strong in this area. Micro-brewing and distillation will continue to see an increase in 2014. Artisan, local, and regional cocktails, wines, and beers will be a focus, with restaurants hungry to create the latest and greatest signature selections.
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