By Chef Judi Gallagher –
People who eat in restaurants, haven’t for the past few years. Reacting to the down economy, they’ve been eating at home or choosing budget-friendly restaurants when they do go out. The hospitality industry has adjusted by lowering prices and offering unique experiences to lure people to their tables. But according to reliable national restaurant surveys, including those done by the National Restaurant Association and various trade publications, customers can expect more of what they experienced last year.
The shift away from fine-dining experiences will continue as consumers remain cost conscious. Customers are focused on perceived value, that means getting more for less. Just look at some of the finer dining restaurants where you live. Have you noticed specials such as Prime Rib Night? Have you seen an increase in Happy Hours that include $5.00 to$6.00 small plates of Kobe beef burgers, coconut shrimp and house-made sangria? Here’s what the experts think will be the trends of 2013.
- Locally-grown produce will gain in popularity. If you are a Baby Boomer or grew up on farmland, chances are you ate what the season’s crop brought you. Seasonal cooking enhances the meal experience both for the guests and for the chef since it can be a real challenge.
- Healthful kids’ meals. Good news! From fast food places to DisneyWorld theme park dining to casual family concepts, tasty nutrition could be the most important growth area. Good-bye fried foods and hello delicious healthier alternatives that kids love. Check out EVO’s out of Florida. This concept is brilliant and should be offered to all school children.
- Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme. I have started this trend in my home city, where we now host major events using farm-fresh produce in baskets that is then donated to the local food bank.
- New cuts of meat are a trend. Look for Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major.
- Gluten-free. Big trend. While many aren’t diagnosed as gluten intolerant, many diners see gluten-free as a way to eat healthier and maybe cut calories. Expect to see gluten-free pizza and gluten free desserts on menus everywhere.
- Sustainable seafood. It means take a break so that the supply can catch up with demand. Ted Kennedy championed this cause and for many years we chefs helped by not serving over-fished seafood on our menus to repopulate the species. Notice the abundance of swordfish again.
- Asian Cuisine and inspired ethnic flavors. This trend is especially noticeable in the fast casual segment, fresh Asian food is going to be hot for the next five years and I don’t just mean Szechwan peppers!
- House made, made from scratch. We used to have to travel to Burlington Vermont or Portland Oregon to really have the made-from-scratch blueberry ice cream from the blueberries picked out back and the milk straight from Bessie the cow over in the barn. More and more restaurants will be making their own mustard, ketchup, herb blends and mayonnaise.
- Beer Sommeliers. Wine is still a big trend, but craft beer is claiming the spotlight. Look for more beer and food pairing menus and entrees that feature meats braised with local brews. Beer-based cocktails will be popular.
- Micro-Distilled/Artisan liquor. Single-batch bourbons and vodkas seem to be the largest growing concepts. Look for local distilleries to pop up everywhere and for your local tech schools to offer night classes in home distillery.
- Culinary Cocktails. Bar menu will feature basil cocktails, or green tea infused gin, vanilla essence martinis and lots more. Look for a new variations on the skinny cocktail with sexier juices and savory hints of bacon. Definitely, 2013 is the year of the bar chef!