Restaurant Industry to Continue Recovery in 2011; Chefs Identify Top Trends

While still recovering from the recession, positive signs in the restaurant industry point to traffic growth in 2011, according to new research from The NPD Group.  A new survey from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) also predicts the biggest trends in the restaurant industry for 2011. 

"Some of the areas most affected by the recession have stopped declining or are starting to edge back up, like families with kids and non-​deal visits," says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD. "These are positive signs that the industry is beginning to return to normalcy, but high unemployment and the loss of benefits for the long-​term unemployed, will keep the industry from full recovery."

"In spite of the visit declines, U.S. consumers still made 67 billion visits to commercial and non-​commercial restaurants during 2010, and the industry will continue to work hard to provide their customers with the best quality, value, and convenience," says Riggs. "In the end, there will be winners and losers who capitalize on the situation with innovative offerings that draw consumers out of their homes or away from competitors."

TOP 11 TRENDS FOR 2011:

  • Locally sourced meats and seafood
  • Locally grown produce
  • Sustainability
  • Nutritionally balanced children’s dishes
  • Hyper local,” such as restaurants with their own gardens and chefs who do their own butchering.
  • Children’s nutrition
  • Sustainable seafood
  • Gluten-​free food and being food allergy conscious
  • Simplicity/​back to basics
  • Farm/​estate-​branded ingredients
  • Micro-​distilled/​artisan liquor
  • The top trends identified by culinary professionals for 2011, "are reflecting larger societal trends, underscoring that American diners are becoming more and more interested in what’s on their plate," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA's research and knowledge group. "Sustainability and nutrition are becoming key themes in our nation’s nearly one million restaurants.”

    In addition, 30% of chefs surveyed said mobile food trucks and pop-​up restaurants would be the hottest operational trend in 2011. Eighteen percent said the biggest trend would be restaurants with gardens, and 17% said it would all be about social media marketing.

    [Source:  Foodservice Market Research.  The NPD Group.  13 Dec. 2010.  Web. 21 Dec. 2010;  "Chef's Survey: What's Hot in 2011."  National Restaurant Association.  1 Dec. 2010.  Web.  21 Dec. 2010.]