Analysts at Mintel have outlined five projections for restaurant industry trends in 2010, and the unifying theme is a renewed focus on quality after a year preoccupied mostly with cost and how-low-can-you-go value deals.
Mintel identifies the following upcoming trends:
In 2010, Mintel Menu Insights predicts 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.
Chefs are expected to add a homegrown–or rather, restaurant-grown–touch in 2010 where they can: artisan breads and cheeses, house-infused spirits, locally sourced produce and meats. "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.
Restaurants are expected to make more retail-restaurant connections in 2010, particularly as consumers are cutting back on actual visits to restaurants. Additionally, more restaurants will uphold relationships with customers by using iPhone apps for menu changes and online ordering.
Nearly nine in 10 Americans think eating healthy is important, but 63% say it's difficult at restaurants because there aren't enough healthy items. In 2010, analysts predict 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.
In July, four in five adults told Mintel they'd eaten ethnic food at a restaurant in the past month. Cuisines like Mexican, Chinese and Italian have become so mainstream, however, that it's time to dig deeper. Restaurants will increasingly pinpoint specific regions–Tuscany, Brazil, Morocco, or even within the US, North Carolina BBQ–to develop tomorrow's ethnic food.
"Mintel Menu Insights," November 20, 2009. Website: www.mintel.com.