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Custom Fuel39s pizza features authenticity cues
<p>Custom Fuel&#39;s pizza features authenticity cues.</p>

5 menu trends and what’s driving them

More Consumer Trends.

Most often, food trends that gather steam across the country pave the way for beverage trends to follow. Consider the tiramisu dessert craze leading to tiramisu coffee at Starbucks and tiramisu martinis nearly everywhere, for example.

But recent Technomic research questions whether today’s trends are driven by food or drink. “Does food drive beverage trends or does beverage drive food trends?” menu consultant Nancy Kruse and beverage expert Donna Hood Crecca asked at the recent Technomic Restaurant Trends & Directions Conference.

The analysts identified five food-and-beverage menu trends happening today:

Authenticity. Restaurants are looking to offer an authentic cuisine not available at nearby competitors. For example, the Neapolitan pie—a thin crust, blistered pizza—signifies authenticity. For the best results, owners should consider a Neapolitan oven that bakes at 800 degrees, but a similar experience can be created with a traditional oven at a high temperature.

Uno Restaurant Holdings, famous for its deep dish pizza with a pastry-like crust and chunky tomato sauce, will build on authenticity with its new fast-casual Uno fresco concept. The first location, in Stoneham, MA, opened in June with more slated to open nationally in 2014.

Craftsmanship. Craft (along with artisanal, housemade or rustic) implies skills and the proper training as well as elements of being unique. “Not only high end restaurants can serve craft cocktails,” said menu trends analyst Nancy Kruse.

Ariana, a Manhattan restaurant offering an original interpretation of traditional Russian cuisine, also offers a craft vodka bar that specializes in infusing and barrel-aging. Beverage director Orson Salicetti is taking craftsmanship to the next level by debuting a spin on Ariana’s signature Smokey Pineapple and Coconut Water Shot Duo by adding a piece of homemade-vodka-infused fruit leather on top.

Foods that bring the heat are trending with consumers. Photo: Thinkstock

The surge of ethnic cuisines that introduce new chilies and other spices is paving the way for chefs to incorporate spicier ingredients.

For example, spicy Tex-Mex and Thai cuisines are taking off across the U.S. ESquared Hospitality recently opened Horchata, an original Mexican concept in NYC’s Greenwich Village. Chef Manuel Trevino is offering his take on authentic regional cuisine and signature cocktails, including classic and spiked horchatas. And Chef Jet Tila recently joined Dallas’ Apheleia Restaurant Group as chef and partner of Thai eatery Pakpao to add his signature dishes like Khao Soi Noodles, Sticky Rice with Mangoes and Moo Palo (five-spiced pork belly).

Smoke. Smoke is now going beyond the confines of BBQ and restaurant owners should consider a wood-fired grill or smoker, said Crecca, senior director of the adult beverage resource group at Technomic. Charring is a newer technique popping up in independent restaurants and Crecca says she is seeing some more “ethnically based charring techniques.”

Mashups. Though often meant to generate buzz, mashup menu items like the infamous cronut (croissant and donut) are taking off. Indulging in said items affords consumers some bragging rights.

For example, ramen burgers—fried noodle patties replace hamburger buns—are popping up around the U.S. Mashups have gone mainstream as well, with mint-chocolate chip potato chips hitting grocery store shelves and Dairy Queen’s new peanut butter-pretzel Blizzard.

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