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5 things you need to know now

Summer ushers in innovative seafood dishes Eataly to open in L.A.’s Century City in 2017 Top 10 most popular kids' meals Report: Fast food, fast-casual concepts begin to blur Beacons can personalize diner's mobile experience

As the summer season nears, seafood dishes are starting to appear at the top of “daily special” menus as diners look for healthier and lighter fare.

In NYC, chef Luke Venner of BLT Fish and BLT Fish Shack says summer ushers in a throng of diners who are returning from the beach and want to eat light. “No one is trying to eat a super piping hot beef stew in the summer,” he says. “People are always going to lean toward seafood.”

In response, many chefs across the country are moving beyond the more traditional fish species and flexing their culinary chops, inventing seafood dishes that stand out from the crowd. 

See a photo gallery of 10 fresh summer seafood dishes.

Eataly is branching out to the West Coast with a new location planned for L.A.’s Century City at the Westfield Shopping Center. The move is part of a major expansion at the outdoor mall, which will include an additional 422,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and plaza space. 

The L.A. location is expected to open in spring of 2017. Restaurant Hospitality recently featured the Chicago Eataly in a roundup of places to eat in the Windy City

When it comes to kids’ menus, childhood favorites such as chicken tenders, burgers, pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches still rule. But recent research from mobile-food ordering company GrubHub shows kids' items with the highest order growth in 2014 included French toast and pancakes, indicating more interest in breakfast foods among kids and parents.

The top 10 most popular kids' menu choices are:
1. Chicken Tenders – 19%
2. Burgers – 9%
3. Pizza – 7%
4. Grilled cheese − 7%
5. Chicken nuggets – 5%

Items losing fans are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which plunged 60 percent in popularity compared to last year, and ham and cheese sandwich, down 27 percent. Overall, recent NPD Group research showed restaurant visits by families with children have been declining since 2008. 

The distinctions between fast food and fast-casual concepts are starting to blur for consumers, according to recent Technomic research

Consumers noted fewer distinctions between the two segments in areas like overall value, friendly service, craveability and menu variety. Convenient delivery or ordering services, such as call-ahead or online ordering, could encourage them to patronize limited-service restaurants more often. Beyond convenience, 53 percent of fast-casual consumers expect an upscale, relaxing atmosphere, and 17 percent will go elsewhere if this is not offered.

In addition, recent NPD research showed a steady 2-percent-per-year decline in customer visits since 2009 in the casual dining segment. 

Today, consumers expect to be engaged, not advertised to, on their mobile devices. According to an iMedia Connection report, restaurants on the cutting edge of technology today are using beacons to send customers vital information like restaurant wait times and special offers for frequent customers. 

While cookies are a great way to learn about an Internet user's behavior, beacons may be the new way to finally understand their motives, the report says. Beacons allow restaurants to send relevant messages to consumers, after which they will “stop perceiving you as a brand and start looking at you as a friend.”

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