18 February 2013

12 Hottest Dining Trends For Restaurants and Hotels in 2013 - #trendalert

Here's another installation of hot trends for 2013:

Look To Bars for Flavor Inspirations
 Artisan drinks created by bartenders are the thing to watch for 2013. Hard alcohols are being infused with tropical flavors like mango and kiwi. Some bars are introducing customers to flavors such as Chinese five-spice syrup, citrus or maple bitters, and honey syrup. Some restaurants and hotels are showcasing Latin influences in liquor, including tequila mixed with lime and chipotle-pineapple syrup. Soda fountain drinks made with adults in mind are also all the rage: "floats, shakes, parfaits and smoothies laced with bourbon, peppermint rum, aquavit ... or Chartreuse along with flavored syrups."

Cola Takes a Backseat to Artisan Sodas and Fresh Juices
2013 brings with it a new consumer consciousness about what we eat and drink, paving the way for fresh fruit and vegetable juices, artisan sodas made with natural ingredients, and smoothies that blend fresh flavors with nutrition. Juice bars will likely pop-up in hotel lobbies, fast casual restaurants, and as stand alone shops.

Fast Casual Rules the Dining World
This year will find the fast-casual touch applied to foods like pizza, sushi, Greek fare, noodles, hot dogs, taquerias ... you name it, you'll soon find a fast-casual version of it. Think about it: the food takes a bit longer to prepare than fast food so it's perceived as fresher, closer to the source, plus we get order it the way we want it and watch it being made; fast-casual places are often hip and modern, making them a place where people want to be seen dining; and prices are far less than going to a sit-down establishment.

Upscaling Items - Taste and Name Changes
Consumers are looking for that little extra something in their food, be it custom sauces, unusual toppings, or more nutritious takes on things like drinks and buns. And, our obsession with snacking has led to a demand for bite-sized foods and food-on-the-go ... without compromising taste, of course. Because these specializations tend to incur higher costs, it's essential to gain consumer support and acceptance. Buzz words like "artisan", "premium", "hand crafted", and "fresh" will help to build the perception of upscale food, allowing customers to accept the upscale prices.

Snacking Is Where It's At
Life's hectic pace has finally caught up with meal time. "Snacks account for one in five eating occasions, (and) multiple snacks now qualify as America's fourth meal ...". Likely because they are replacing traditional meals, snacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated with offerings such as mini-burgers, healthy wraps, and tiny desserts. Food trucks offer portable, convenient, and often unique snacking opportunities to consumers that they desire. Just last month I passed a grilled cheese truck, and the line was at least 25 deep. Talk about a craving. Many restaurants are taking this opportunity to branch out their menus and locations, choosing to operate their own food trucks or pop-up stands in retail stores.

Truth In Advertising ... Or Else!
With claims of "natural", "organic", "artisinal", "hand made", "nutritious", and "non-GMO" come an online world of bloggers, journalists, and nutritionists looking for the truth. Says BaumWhiteman, "Keep your eyes on General Mills and Pepsico suits ... over genetically modified ingredients conflicting with 'natural' claims." Today, one only needs to read the news to see lawsuits against companies like Nutella, Jamba Juice, and Applebee's over claims they've made that consumers have deemed false. Lesson: don't promote it unless it's true.

Multi-Course Meals As a Special Treat
Though diners are opting for fast-casual rather than sit-down meals as a whole, one exception they're willing to make is for a big 'ole, whole hog (literally), multi-course meal with all the trimmings. "Whole animal or whole bird dinners are expanding.", quotes BaumWhiteman. Some restaurants currently on-trend with this:
  • Momofuko - $200 Korean "bo saam" family style meal of a dozen oysters, a whole roasted pork shoulder, BBQ sauce, kimchee, and lettuce in which to wrap the meat.
  • Daniel Boulud's dbgb - "start with house-made fromage de tête, and then dig in to chef Eli's pennsylvania green village farms slow roasted suckling pig with its provençal stuffing of swiss chard, pork loin, chestnuts, wild mushrooms, and fines herbes.  Side dishes include brussels sprouts with smoked bacon,  roasted root vegetable with apples, bitter greens with garlic vinaigrette, and a potato, leek & fromage gratin.  Top the whole thing off with our fabulous vanilla-chocolate flamed black forest."
These  extravagant meals are seemingly popular and profitable. And kitchens like them because chefs know how much to purchase for a pre-ordered table, waiters don't have to deal with complicated orders, and the festive nature of the large meal often encourages customers to over-order wine and cocktails.

Pop-Up Dining at Hotels
Restaurants and bars with modern designs and new twists on favorite foods will begin to pop up in and around hotels. Here are some ways that the Four Seasons hotel chain has encourages pop-up opportunities:
  • Invite a Star Chef - Four Seasons Resort Hualalai hosted chef wunderkind Ludo Lefebvre and his hotter-than-hot LudoBites pop-up for two weeks on Hawaii’s Big Island last winter.
  •  Showcase New Tastes - Morocco’s introduction to the pop-up came a few months ago, courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Marrakech. First up was Bombay Cut, a gourmet Indian resto tucked into the lobby library and helmed by Chef Amit Kamath. A sizzling success, it was then followed by Buena Vista Social Club, a Cuban bar pop-up housed in a pavilion and offering Hemingway’s favourite cocktails, the Mojito and the Papa Doble Daiquiri. Coming this spring is Last Call, a speakeasy-esque jazz bar that will be hidden by an entrance made look like a dry cleaners with actual vintage washers and dryers (and, as befitting a pop-up, the daily password to gain entrance will be shared via social media).
  •  Be the Host with the Most - Four Seasons Hotel Toronto offers four different themed pop-up possibilities for its meeting and events clients, complete with lighting, décor and customised playlist: Le Bistro, Italian Trattoria, The Fat Chef Gastro Pub and Das Bavarian Beer Hall.
  •  Educate With Flair - Guests at Four Seasons Hotel Miami get in on the action with cooking lessons from Executive Chef Aaron Brooks and his team at a pop-up location on the property, announced the week prior.

Food Vending Machines & Self-Service Kiosks
Savvy consumers want access to snack foods 24-7, and they want to place their order without having to relay it to a person behind a counter. Hence, the upscale food vending machine or self-service kiosk. Some food companies that are leading the pack with this trend are:
  • Los Angeles-based Sprinkles, with their 24-hour cupcake ATM.
  • McDonalds with their order-and-pay kiosks in the U.S. and Europe to speed services and cut lines.
  • Jamba Juice has JambaGO, which vends its products in places like schools, entertainment complexes, and convenience stores.

Freshly Baked Breads
Many restaurants are baking in-house, not only to cut costs but also to showcase their distinctive take on breadmaking. Also, say goodbye to the complimentary bread basket. If diners want bread with their meal, they're going to have to ask for it ... and pay for it.

Green Is Good
Kitchens are experimenting with seaweed, kale, collard greens, beet greens, chard, turnip and mustard greens in everything from appetizers to main dishes. These chlorophyll-rich powerhouses are becoming increasingly accepted by people in the United States, and menus are taking notice.

Branded Stores
It stands to reason that it was only a matter of time before food manufacturers and suppliers decided to cut out the middle man in their quest to serve the public. Examples include:
  • Dannon and Chobani - both companies have opened flagship yogurt bars in Manhattan, New York. 
  • Barilla will launch pasta restaurants in the coming year.
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate has opened a soda fountain/chocolate shop inside Disney's California Adventure theme park.
Some of the top buzzwords for 2013 include:
flexitarians, plant-based, togarashi, more chicken less beef, fermented, artisan donuts, artisan anything, craft bourbon, quinine syrups, Lillet, Dubonnet, Chartreuse, locally grown/made, zip-code honeys, smoked, aromatic, fruity, food halls, pop-up, white strawberries, green tomatoes, geranium leaves, hibiscus, shiso, hard cider, lobster rolls, charcuterie boards
(BaumWhiteman, 2013)

Yes, it's a lot to take in, process, and plan for, but isn't it better to know what lies ahead? We consumers are fickle, and we will seek out those businesses that are responsive to our ever-shifting desires. Wouldn't it be better if that business was yours?

Author's Note:
*I'd like to thank Baum-Whiteman International Food and Restaurant Consultants for their insightful and relevant content.

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