Five menu Trends

Technomic, a Chicago-based foodservice consulting firm, suggests that menu innovation will play an essential role to entice recession-weary diners with compelling reasons to eat out. Look for these five trends in the year ahead.

  1. New Spin on Old Favorites: Comfort Foods

    Look for increased menuing of upscale comfort foods, with an explosion of simple foods containing a small number of “real-food” ingredients. Expect to see a fresh, premium or high-quality spin on familiar, humble foods, such as artisan cheeses used in macaroni and cheese. 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.

  2. 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. The fascination with global street foods will also play out in the proliferation of Baja-style fish tacos, now moving beyond Mexican restaurants. Expect to see continued emphasis on regional versions of ethnic cuisines, especially with Mexican and Italian fare.

  3. Frontiers of Flavor

    It's time for umami to 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. Beverage flavor frontiers of 2010 will include tropical ingredients (hibiscus flower, agave nectar, pure cane sugar). Starring in the American regional flavor pantheon is bourbon, used to sauce or spike everything from burgers to chili to desserts.

  4. Back to the Future: Tending Our Gardens and Farms

    With the First Lady now tending an official White House garden, look for more chefs to follow suit with 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.

  5. Breakfast 'Round the Clock

    Look for breakfast to break out of its traditional boundaries, with breakfast-style fare 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.