Hospitality and restaurant consultancy Andrew Freeman & Co. recently rolled out its fifth annual choices for buzz-worthy trends in restaurants, spas and hotels. The firm bases its picks on a mix of frequent travel, chats with industry experts, client meetings, conferences and personal experience. Their food and beverage-related predictions follow.
How We’ll Be Eating in 2012
This Spud’s for You—2012 will be the year of the potato! Watch out for french fry menus that let guests choose the cut, crispness, and sauce; make-your-own mashers with mix-ins; or custom-cut chips with dusts and dips to order. Everyone’s chipping in.
Melt in Your Hands—Grilled cheese the new hamburger? We think so. Restaurants devote special evenings or entire menus to this childhood favorite loved by kids of all ages. From fast casual to high end, expect more restaurants to develop their own signature sandwiches from high end to low.
Use Your Noodle—Noodles are nothing new, but innovative and exciting restaurants are highlighting this ancient art with glorified exhibition style hand-pulled noodles. It’s dinner and a show!
Thai the Knot—Exciting, creative takes on modern Thai cuisine are becoming some of the hottest destinations in town as diners become more adventurous and love the evocative flavors. An increasingly savvy clientele will come to appreciate focus on regional Thai variations.
31 Hundred Flavors—Everyone loves ice cream... creative chefs are taking advantage of its blank canvas to entice people to try unfamiliar flavors of all sorts and styles. And people are licking it up!
Produce-ing Desserts—Move over carrot cake, cutting-edge pastry chefs are turning vegetables into sweet finales. They’ll make you eat your veggies with sweet satisfaction.
Inspiring Mouths Want to Know—Chefs tell the story behind the dish by paying tribute to their inspiration on menus. Guests love to have the back-story and it builds a personal connection or recommendation—even when it isn’t personal.
Strip Service—Restaurants are keeping prices low and the feeling casual by stripping the dining rooms back. Expect not only bare tables but bare amenities as guests take on more responsibility: pouring their own water from a carafe, hanging on to or setting their own silver, and tearing off their own bread.
Recipes for Success—Hospitality careers are hot. From intensive professional training programs to specialty programs for continuing education and amateur classes for hobbyists, everyone is getting in on the action. According to the National Restaurant Association, by 2014, the culinary industry will add 1.4 million jobs. The industry has never been hotter.
Eating Between the Line—High-class food comes to a fast-casual setting as high-end chefs open fast-casual offshoots using premium ingredients in dressed-down settings. At the same time, fast-casual restaurants dress up the experience with more formal plateware and service.
Chaat Rooms—Indian street foods will gain popularity as fans flock to food trucks, pop-ups and quick-service restaurants selling fast, fresh, spicy Indian fare. Look for kati rolls, puri with sauces and condiments, or “pav” sandwiches with highly seasoned vegetables.
Breakfast Club—Breakfast is the new dinner. Everyone loves brunch and breakfast foods. Restaurants are reinterpreting breakfast for lunch, dinner and late-night menus. Think waffle sandwiches, savory turnovers, eggs prepared many ways, pigs in a blanket, hollandaise-topped sandwiches, chicken and French toast or bread pudding served either sweet or savory. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day—no matter what time it comes.
Red Hot Chili Peppers—Specialty chili peppers are heating things up. Varieties like the Middle Eastern Aleppo Pepper, African Piri Piri or the incendiary Indian Ghost Pepper are spicing up menus near and far.
Healthy Indulgences—Health-conscious diners will be satisfied with more nutritious meals and drinks that offer real appeal. Expect signature, whole-grain salads and sides, a selection of plates available in smaller sizes, menu items that appeal to particular dietary needs and high fructose-free sodas...
Turn Over a New Leaf—Chefs pine-ing for new flavors will use subtle infusions of pine needles, Douglas fir and eucalyptus to flavor sauces, rubs, meats, jus and broths.
Tableaux Settings—Artistic chefs are creating edible landscapes that represent where the food actually came from. Oysters served on a rock, mushrooms in a forest of edible “moss”, it’s food as art and nature extended.
Liquid Diet—What was “foam” or “dirt” is now liquid, as chefs and cocktail experts are distilling all the flavors of a complex, integrated dish into liquid form. Alcohol may or may not be included.
Let it Snow—First there was shaved ice, now there is shaved ice cream as snow ice comes to America. Offering the flavor and creaminess of ice cream with unbelievably light texture, snow ice is sure to please
Go Hungary—Everyone is Russian to go Hungary with Eastern European food moving into the main stream. Czech your reservations (make them instead!) because this trend has a great Prague-nosis.
...And What We’ll Be Drinking
Tap Dancing—First it was cask-aged cocktails, premeasured mixed drinks barrel-aged for added nuance. Now mixed drinks are available on tap; barrel or not. It’s the new Manhattan project. It’s quick and convenient.
It Was a Fine, Fine Beer—Vintage beers are coming of age. They offer intrigue and a taste of the past with higher alcohol beers meant to age.
Double Hitter—Bars are pitching double-hitters with offers of a cocktail or shot and a beer to chase it with. Call it a one-two shot.
Drinks with Drive—The food truck craze has extended to drinks as cocktail trucks are taking to the streets and spirits brands seek to build recognition.
On Solid Ground—Everyone from bartenders and artists to pastry chefs will break the mold and reinvent cocktails in solid form. Frozen beverages translate to sorbet and popsicles while artistically layered boozy jellies give jello another shot.
Ounce Upon a Time—Serious spirits enthusiasts and avid wine drinkers will pay for an opportunity to taste luxury beverages beyond their means—one ounce at a time. Pay to play.
Fram-Booze-le—Breweries are adding fruit to beers of all types. This new fruit juice adds a little hop to your step.
Sip Tease—Mini cocktails offered as an amuse “wet” the appetite before the drinks and meal to come. Create a sense of generous hospitality, while enticing guests to try beverages from the bar program. We’ll drink to that!
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For another viewpoint on 2012 restaurant trends: