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Archive | Restaurant Trends and News

Keep up to date on restaurant and food service industry news and trends, from serious analysis to more lighthearted fare.

What Are Americans Snacking On?

Veggie SnacksAmericans love to snack! It’s seems like a lifetime ago that snacks were reserved as ‘special treats’. Not anymore, a study conducted by the Hartman Group found that Americans are consuming, on average, 2.3 snacks per day. I set out to find when Americans snack, what they consume when they snack, why they snack, and if this snacking is a trend or here to stay.

When Do Americans Snack?

Food has become part of every occasion in the United States from birthday parties to office meetings, the opportunity to snack is everywhere. According to the study by the Hartman Group:

  • More than 41% of American adults enjoy at least two snacks per day
  • While 24% of them have at least three snacks per day
  • Followed by 17% having only one snack per day
  • Most snacking occurs in the afternoon, evening and late-night hours

Why Do Americans Snack?

According to the Hartman study, 28% of adults snack because they want to enjoy an indulgent treat while 27% snack on impulse. Others snack because they feel stressed or anxious, or simply don’t feel like cooking or preparing a meal. However, additional research has shown that 36% of consumers who snack have healthier eating habits than consumers who do not snack as all.

So, Snacking Is Healthy?

And early research is showing that contrary to conventional wisdom, the more consumers snack, the healthier their eating behaviors are. In today’s fast paced world, consumer’s view snacking as one way to improve healthy eating habits. Consumers identify fruit, yogurt, and nutritional bars as their top picks for healthy snacks. Nutritionists recommend snacks including: edamame, hard boiled eggs, dried nuts and fruits and smoothies.

Is Snacking Here To Stay?

The verdict is in and snacking is here to stay! QSRWeb named ‘snacks’ as one of the top quick service restaurant trends for 2012, while the NRA named “half portions and small portions at low prices” as a top trend for 2013. Healthy snacks can actually help stabilize blood sugar levels, making it easier to curb consumer cravings at meal times.

With snack food brands including, Nabisco, Doritos, and Lays investing millions of dollars a year advertising their brands, snacking will continue to grow. Consumer response to snack foods is positive: snacking, when done in moderation, can help manage their hunger, weight, and energy levels.

One out of every five eating occasions in the United States is a snack, with more than half of all Americans eating 2 snacks per day – make your food choices count! Healthy snacking can lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle!

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Foie Gras

GeeseMy husband and I, and our two boys, raise 4 chickens (and a 5th that ended up being a rooster). We wanted to share with our boys what it’s like to raise something that you are responsible for, but that also provides for the family. Every day they go out and collect their eggs, feed and water them, and play with them. They also get to enjoy the fruits of their labor with all sorts of egg recipes!

Did You Just Say They Play With The Chickens?

Yes. In fact, each of them has their own personality, but there’s one in-particular that stands out from the rest – her name is Miss Elsie.

Every time anyone walks outside, she runs to the gate that separates her from our deck and patiently waits for her treats (typically leftover veggies, veggie peelings or warm oatmeal). Even when I forget to bring anything out, she convinces me that it’s worth it to go back in as her friends slowly crowd around her waiting for their treats too.

And Elsie’s the only one of the flock that will let you pet her and hold her (which can sometimes be a messy situation, but you learn how to hold them). It’s really been a fun experience for all of us; to the point that I don’t think we could ever eat them (not sure what we’re going to do when they get older though). I seriously couldn’t look at the chicken on my plate and know it’s Miss Elsie – I think my boys would agree with that notion too.

What’s This Foie Gras Thing?

Now, I suppose I should say that I don’t live in Boulder. I actually live up in the mountains where we can raise chickens if we want. It’s a small town, but I like that lifestyle. And I suppose because of this fact, I’ve never heard of Foie Gras. That was, until I received an email on the ban of Foie Gras in California.

I may be a small-town girl, but I’m also a bit of a nerdy-researcher when it comes to new topics. I engulf myself in things until I understand everything about it – the history behind it, why there’s a ban in the first place, what the farmers think, what the restaurants think, etc. Of course everyone is going to have their own opinion (and this story is mine), but I believe that in order to really be able to form an opinion about something, you should be informed on the subject matter beyond one online article. So I researched it.

I read that article that was sent to me, and they mentioned how the ducks are force fed to enlarge their liver to be 6x what a normal liver should be in a healthy duck, and that “ducks and geese experience fear, as well as acute and chronic stress from the multiple daily force-feedings and the pain associated with them. And force-feeding can cause a number of injuries: bruising or perforation of the esophagus; hemorrhaging and inflammation of the neck resulting from the repeated insertion of the pipe into the throat; and asphyxia caused by food improperly forced into the trachea.” (The Humane Society of the United States).

Force Feed Geese Fois Gras

What Bertrand Hug Says

The article above concluded with a story from a restaurateur that mentioned how upset he was about the ban and that as a child, he saw these birds on his family farm as happy to receive their force fed meal. Of course I had to read that article too.

Bertrand Hug does a great job letting us know how his life on the farm was in France. He mentions many other animals that were raised on the farm: all of them to help feed the family or earn income for them.

This is a pretty typical life on a farm, and for the most part, I grew up the same way. We had cows and goats for milk and cows and goats for meat. We had chickens for eggs and we had chickens for meat. We grew our own vegetable garden, and did our best to live off the land.

Hug goes on to say that yes, there were birds that were force fed, and the money that came from those fatty livers helped bring in “big money.” I was still cringing as I read up this point, but I suppose I can also relate with his recollection of all the ducks running up to be fed – that’s my Elsie. And that the experience of those ducks being force fed is like a bird that swallows a fish whole. Furthermore, he states that all of those birds were far happier than the other ducks that weren’t force fed. I’m not sure on my stance with this though; I don’t think I could ever force feed Elsie just to plump her up.

A Little History Story

Fois Gras History Egyptian

The history of increasing the size of a goose from force feeding dates back to 2498 BC, where the Egyptian monarchy considered geese to be a delicacy, and the animal was often given as a gift. It was during this time that the first records of fattening a goose came to be; however, I should state that there are plenty of sites that say that the Egyptians may have been fattening the birds so that they appeared plump, which of course was for pleasing the gift receiver.

In the second century BC the term Foie Gras came to be known as a food source, also seen as a delicacy. The Greeks and Romans both attribute themselves for discovering this dish, and thus spreading the popularity of the force feeding to bring it to the table around the world.

Today, France considers Fois Gras a cultural gastronomical heritage and is the leading producer and consumer of both forms – duck and geese.

It was in 1974 that the first ban was enforced for force-feeding animals, which occurred in Norway. Other countries that followed suit included Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Last Thoughts

I grew up on a farm and have a family full of hunters, so yes, we all eat meat. But we believe in the ethical treatment of animals. I couldn’t imagine pumping Miss Elsie full of hormones just to make her eggs bigger, just like I couldn’t imagine pumping her full of food just to make her “plump for eating.” The eggs she lays (as well as the other chickens) are small in comparison to store eggs, just like the organic meat that we get from the local organic grocers is small in comparison to shopping at the normal grocers.  And we’re okay with that.

I don’t follow all of my food from farm to plate, but I do try to make a conscience decision to feed my family with food that I at least know a little bit about – whether that be from the food we receive from hunting or because I read the labels on the food at the organic grocers before I buy it.

I also know that when I go out to restaurants I may not be eating food that was humanly raised (odds are that I’m not), but it is also a choice that I’m very aware of and wish I had more options up in my small town to be able to know that the meats were humanely raised.

I wanted to write this blog post about Fois Gras to get your feedback, not to say what my opinions were, but I found that it was harder to do than I thought.  So, I must conclude by saying that if you are a farmer at a Fois Gras farm, or a restaurant owner that serves Fois Gras, I invite you to take a stance and help teach our audience more about Foid Gras and its best practices.

P.S. As one of my co-workers, Molly, read through this, she mentioned that I should post a picture of Elsie.  But the only photo I had at the time was one that was uploaded to Instagram last year, which was when the chickens were much younger, but it’s still cute!  Elsie’s the white chicken on the left looking at the camera.

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Rivaling Fast Food by Being Kid-Friendly

kid's mealKid cuisine seems to be a hot topic every year as parents continue to question the foods their children consume and the nutritional value paired with each bite. From the $1.99 kid’s meal at the local fast food chain, to the half-sized portion of a “big person” plate served at a sit-down restaurant, it seems every season sheds new light on how disappointing traditional options are. Simply put, parents these days want the most for their money, without feeling like they’re slowly poisoning their kids with processed foods. This, fortunately, puts today’s fast, casual establishments in prime position to pick up the slack where fast food and slim pickings have fallen short.

Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (nonprofit), explained in a 2012 Chicago Tribune article, “Kids are getting about one-third of their calories from eating out.” One-third of their calories, whether it’s obesity-inducing fast food or a new restaurant each week, is a frightening figure to some and a deal-breaker on eating out for others… that’s a roundabout way of saying a tweak to your menu, paired with health-conscious (yet still appealing) options for the whole family, may be just what you need to grow your customer base, while providing parents with an alternative to the greasy burger and fries options.

Targeting a Younger Audience

Catering to a younger demographic, or at least having separate/unique offerings available, is an excellent way to widen that net you’ve been throwing out to pull in customers. Where the family motto for eating out used to be “cheap and easy” we’ve seen the change to an all-encompassing manifesto of “cheap, easy, healthy, atmosphere, options” and the list continues to grow. This means parents are often ditching the kid’s meal and searching for family-friendly restaurants just like yours.

Here’s Why:

  • Kids are developing more sophisticated palates
  • Society is instilling a desire to seem more mature at a younger age
  • While healthy foods aren’t always purchased, parents still want to see those options on the menu
  • Tweens/teens are looking for their own transitional menu items
  • Child obesity is on the rise and the public is taking notice

So what’s the tried-and-true restaurant to do when faced with younger customers and well-informed parents? Evolve, plain and simple.

There are countless resources detailing the detriments of sugar-rich meals packed with saturated fat, and there are just as many resources explaining how to avoid those while staying creative in the kitchen. It’s your responsibility as a restaurant owner/operator to tap into these resources and apply the information to your cooking, but healthy foods aren’t the end-all to roping in the younger crowd and those who oversee them.

youth seating

Dining Room – If you’re not equipped to seat and serve a family with small children you’re already missing out on that market. Youth seating, like high chairs and booster seats, are a must – as are child-centric cups and utensils. Making a family feel comfortable and welcome can mean the difference between seating five… and watching them pass you by for a quick drive-thru meal.

Entertainment, on some level, is also a smart decision. Most kid’s meals offer small toys, and for good reason. A happy, playing child is not a screaming, unruly child.  Even having a placemat that can be colored or Wikki Stix can keep small hands busy.

Menu Design –  Redesigning one’s menu is a daunting task, especially if the same menu has been used for years. Fortunately, a good menu redesign does wonders for business. When giving those few pages a makeover, moving more profitable/popular items to better positions, make sure to evaluate whether a child or teen specific section should be added.

Most parents would like to avoid wading through full-sized meals to find something suitable for their kids, and having a corner (or even a page) dedicated to younger patrons can be a godsend. Jazz it up, make it easy to read, and include nutritional information – parents will thank you for it.

To Go Options – For the family that still wants to bring food home (as opposed to dining out), having to go options that rival the traditional drive-thru experience can make your restaurant the go-to eatery for after school snacks or family dinner.

This goes hand-in-hand with a comprehensive and accessible menu. If all a mother of three has to do is check the kids section of your online menu, place the call, and pick up food 10-15 minutes later you’re positioning yourself as a fast-food vs. fast-casual crossover. When a freshly made bowl of pasta and accompanying carton of milk can be picked up just as easily as a handful of fast food kid’s meals, you’re in good shape.

Granted, it takes work and dedication to turn your adults-only establishment into an all-are-welcome hub for families and the tween/teen demographic; however, the benefits inherent in opening up your doors to more potential customers are worth the effort. A new year brings with it a renewed vigor to reach more customers, please more people, and beat out the competition without compromising quality: tapping the kid-friendly market – and all it entails – may be all you need to do just that!

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What’s Hot: Drink Trends for 2013

What’s Hot?

In addition to surveying chef’s about hot food trends for the New Year, The National Restaurant Association (NRA) surveyed 195 professional bartenders to uncover hot drink trends for 2013. It wasn’t surprising that producing and buying local is a top trend for drinks, similar to food, including onsite barrel-aged drinks which top the charts. Other top drinks include food-liquor/cocktail parings and micro distilled/artisan liquor.

Here Are The Top 20 Drink Trends For 2013:Barrel Aged

  1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
  3. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
  4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  5. Locally produced spirits
  6. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
  7. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
  8. Regional signature cocktails
  9. Beer-based cocktails
  10. Locally produced beer
  11. Food-beer pairings/beer dinners
  12. Salt (e.g. flavored, smoked, regional)
  13. House-made lemonade/soft drinks/tonics
  14. Cask beer/ale
  15. Wine on tap/draft wine
  16. Organic cocktails
  17. Cocktails on tap
  18. Craft beer
  19. Signature cocktails
  20. Shrubs

Hot Trends by Category

And here are top alcohol trends by category…


  1. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  2. Locally produced spirits
  3. Bitters
  4. “New Make” whiskey
  5. Mezcal


Culinary Cocktail

  1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  2. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
  3. Regional signature cocktails
  4. Beer-based cocktails
  5. Organic cocktails


  1. Locally produced beer
  2. Cask beer/ale
  3. Craft beer
  4. House-brewed beer
  5. Gluten-free beer


  1. Wine on tap/draft wine
  2. Locally produced wine
  3. Non-traditional/less popular wine varietals
  4. Organic wine
  5. Argentinian wine


  1. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
  2. Salt (e.g. flavored, smoked, regional)
  3. House-made lemonade/soft drinks/tonics
  4. Flower syrup/essence
  5. Spices

Mixology Themes


  1. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
  2. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
  3. Food-beer pairings/beer dinners
  4. Molecular gastronomy/mixology
  5. Food-wine pairings

Additional Trends

1. When the bartenders were asked to segment customers into categories it was surprising how equally split the groups were:

  • 36% of customers are traditional – always order simple drinks, like draft beer and house wine
  • 32% of customers are adventurous – always try new and trendy drinks
  • 31% are cautious explorers – generally order standbys, but sometimes try trendy items

2. Because over 30% of customers were categorized as adventurous, it was great to see how the bartenders felt about specialty/culinary cocktails:

  • 67% said that it’s a good way to build business and attract new customers
  • 26% said they are fun to make because they have to be more creative
  • 1% said they are a challenge because they take longer
  • 1% said customers rarely order specialty cocktails

3. In addition, more than half (51%) said they are seeing more guests dining at the bar, rather than being seated at a table (compared to two years ago).

4. The last question bartenders were asked was “What’s the hottest technology trend in bars/restaurants for 2013.” The same question was asked to more than 1,800 professional chefs in the top food trends survey, and the outcome of each survey was remarkably different:

The chef’s response:

  • 27% said tablet computers (e.g. iPad) for menus and wine lists
  • 25% said smartphone apps for consumers (e.g. ordering, menus)
  • 19% said mobile/wireless/at-the-table payment options
  • 13% said social media for marketing/loyalty programs
  • 11% said smartphone apps for chefs/restaurateurs (e.g. recipes, measurement converters)
  • 4% said QR codes on menus, marketing, etc
  • 1% said other

The bartender’s response:

  • 40% said social media for marketing/loyalty programs
  • Social Media Logotype Background29% said tablet computers (e.g. iPad) for menus and wine lists
  • 14% said smartphone apps for consumers (e.g. ordering, menus)
  • 6% said smartphone apps for chefs/restaurateurs (e.g. recipes, measurement converters)
  • 5% said other
  • 4% said mobile/wireless/at-the-table payment options
  • 2% said QR codes on menus, marketing, etc

What’s Not Hot

Of the 123 drink items ranked by bartenders, these received the highest scores for waning trends:

  1. Hard lemonade
  2. Non-alcoholic wine
  3. “Skinny”/lower-calorie cocktails
  4. Dessert/candy-flavored cocktails
  5. White sangria
  6. Frozen cocktails
  7. Light/reduced calorie beer
  8. Kosher wine
  9. Boxed wine
  10. Bacon

2013 Food Trends

Now that you’re caught up with the hottest drink trends for 2013, take a gander at what’s hot in the food world for the New Year.

What’s Hot in 2013 Video

For more information from NRA on hot trends for 2013, check out this video!

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10 Foods to Avoid Serving at Your Catered Event

What to Avoid

You’ve done your research, negotiated costs, picked a venue, planned and organized the party timeline and sent out invitations for the big event – phew, the last step is to plan the menu. You probably have a good idea of how to make the menu stand out, and what your guests will enjoy, but did you know there are foods that should be avoided when it comes to catering?

Fresh tomatoes on bruschetta

Here’s our list of top 10 foods to avoid at catered events.

  1. Odor offending foods. Anything that causes bad breath or bad bodily functions should be avoided at large gatherings, including, garlic, onions, cabbage, beans, curry and overly fishy foods.
  2. Mess Making Foods.  Sure, chicken wings and spaghetti are delicious, but unfortunately, these types of foods can be messy. We recommend offering foods that are tasty, yet easy and mess-free.
  3. Dairy Rich Foods. Today’s culture experiences a variety of food allergies, and  dairy sensitivity is one of the most common ones. Dairy rich foods can lead to bloating, gas and cramps – all symptoms you want to avoid at a party. Avoid offering too many creamy dishes, ice cream, etc.
  4. Gluten Rich Foods. Gluten doesn’t effect everyone in a negative way, but it is another type of food that is known to cause bloating and cramps in many people. Make sure to offer plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits for guests that may be affected by gluten.
  5. Extremely Spicy Foods. Just like any other food sensitivity, people have different spice tolerances. When serving food to large groups it’s safer to keep things simple and mild. And if you must add extra-heat, try serving it on the side!
  6. Raw Meats or Eggs. The last thing any host wants to cause is food poisoning. Avoid serving raw meats or eggs of any kind. Make sure the foods being served have been safely handled by the caterer.
  7. Heavy Foods.  Whether you’re celebrating a marriage, graduation, birthday or corporate event you certainly don’t want your guests falling sleep after the meal. We suggest avoiding heavy foods like mashed potatoes, casseroles, turkey and carbohydrate-rich foods.
  8. Fried, Greasy Foods. Foods like pizza, French fries, donuts, fried chicken and other fatty foods slow digestion, leaving your guests feeling sluggish and tired.
  9. Artificially Sweetened Beverages. Most diet sodas and sugar-free drinkscontain sugar alcohol which can be hard to digest, leaving party guests uncomfortable, bloated and lethargic. We recommend offering water, natural teas, lemonade and (in moderation) red and white wines.
  10. Too Much Alcohol. Enjoying a couple of alcoholic beverages at any celebration can put the entire party in a great mood, however, one too many can lead to disaster. As a host we recommend not making the bar or alcohol serving station center stage. Always offer healthy drinks and water.

As a party host, it’s important to know your guest profile and guest preferences to allow for the ability to create an appetizing, exciting menu for all to enjoy. Incorporating seasonal/fresh items, selecting a menu that fits the event and anticipating special dietary needs will ensure a successful celebration.

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What’s Hot: Food Trends for 2013

What’s Hot?

The National Restaurant Association surveyed over 1,800 professional chefs to uncover hot food trends for 2013. By a long shot, locally sourced/grown foods top the charts with healthful kids’ meals not far behind. Other hot trends include new cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major), ethnic breakfast items (e.g. Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes) and food trucks (which continue to pop up and thrive in all corners of the nation).


Here Are The Top 20 Food Trends For 2013:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafoodEat Local
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Healthful kids’ meals
  4. Environmental sustainability
  5. Children’s nutrition
  6. New cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
  7. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  8. Gluten-free cuisine
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals
  11. Farm/estate branded items
  12. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
  13. Non-traditional fish (e.g. branzino, Arctic char, barramundi)
  14. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
  15. Fruit/vegetable children’s side items
  16. Health/nutrition
  17. Half-portions/smaller portions for a smaller price
  18. House-made/artisan ice cream
  19. Black/forbidden rice
  20. Food trucks


Hot Trends by Category

The top 20 give you a great, broad overview of the New Year’s trends, but there are also top trends by categories that represent sections of a traditional restaurant menu.


  1. House-cured meats/charcuterieCharcuterie
  2. Vegetarian appetizers
  3. Ethnic/street food inspired appetizers (tempura, taquitos, kabobs, hummus)
  4. Amuse-bouche/bite-size hors d’oeuvre
  5. Flatbread appetizers


  1. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
  2. Black/forbidden rice
  3. Quinoa
  4. Red rice
  5. Pickled vegetables

Main Dishes

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. New cuts of meat (Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
  3. Sustainable seafood
  4. Non-traditional fish (branzino, Arctic char, barramundi)
  5. Half-portions/smaller portions for a smaller price


  1. House-made/artisan ice cream
  2. Bite-size/mini desserts
  3. Savory desserts
  4. Deconstructed classic desserts
  5. Dessert flights/combos


  1. Ethnic inspired breakfast items (Asian-flavored syrups, Chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
  2. Traditional ethnic breakfast items (huevos rancheros, shakshuka, ashta, Japanese)
  3. Fresh fruit breakfast
  4. Prix fixe breakfastSnack Time
  5. Chicken and waffles

Kid’s Meals

  1. Healthful kids’ meals
  2. Whole grain items in kid’s meals
  3. Fruit/vegetable children’s’ side items
  4. Oven-bakes items in kids’ meals (baked chicken fingers, oven baked fries)
  5. Children’s portions of adult menu items


  1. Locally grown produce
  2. Organic produce
  3. Superfruit (acai, goji berry, mangosteen)
  4. Heirloom apples
  5. Exotic fruits (rambutan, dragon fruit, paw paw, guava)

Ethnic Cuisines

  1. Peruvian cuisine
  2. Regional ethnic cuisine
  3. Ethnic fusion cuisine
  4. Korean cuisine
  5. Southeast Asian cuisine (e.g. Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian)

Ingredients/Other food ItemsArtisan cheeses

  1. Farm/estate branded items
  2. Artisan cheeses
  3. Ethnic cheeses (e.g. queso fresco, paneer, lebneh, halloumi)
  4. Non-wheat flour (e.g. peanut, millet, barley, rice)
  5. Ancient grains (e.g. kamut, spelt, amaranth)

Preparation Methods

  1. Fermenting
  2. Pickeling
  3. Sous Vide
  4. Liquid nitrogen
  5. Smoking

Culinary themes

  1. Environmental sustainability
  2. Children’s nutrition
  3. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  4. Gluten-free cuisine
  5. Health/nutrition


  1.  House-made soft drinks/soda/pop
  2.  Gourmet lemonade (e.g. house-made, freshly muddled)
  3. Organic coffee
  4. Specialty iced tea (e.g. Thai-style, southern/sweet, flavored)
  5. Coconut water


Additional Trends

1. Technology touches almost every aspect of our lives, which is increasingly true even in the food service industry. Between the arrival of mobile devices at the table, online reservations, social media and mobile payment methods, technology has infiltrated the food and restaurant industry like never before. That’s why NRA asked “What is the hottest technology trend in restaurants for 2013?

iPad at restaurant

  • 27% said tablet computers (e.g. iPad) for menus and wine lists
  • 25% said smartphone apps for consumers (e.g. ordering, menus)
  • 19% said mobile/wireless/at-the-table payment options
  • 13% said social media for marketing/loyalty programs
  • 11% said smartphone apps for chefs/restaurateurs (e.g. recipes, measurement converters)
  • 4% said QR codes on menus, marketing, etc
  • 1% said other

2. Scorching heat and drought in the US, Russia and Europe constricted agricultural production and pushed up prices of key ingredients including corn and soybeans to record highs. The survey asked chefs “How do you best handle the challenge of elevated food costs?”

  • 32% said they would change and update the menu to include different dishes
  • 25% said adjusting plate composition (e.g. increasing amounts of lower priced items while reducing amounts of higher priced items)
  • 24% said they would explore new sourcing options and suppliers
  • 11% said managing food costs in other operational areas
  • 4% said they would raise menu prices
  • 4% said other

3. Healthy eating has been a hot topic for a few years now, and chefs continue to find new ways to integrate healthier ingredients into their dishes. So when the survey asked “Are you making efforts to adjust dishes/recipes to be more healthful, for example, by using more fruit and vegetables or reduced sodium?” the results were not a surprise.

  • 55%, said yes, always
  • 37% said they try but not all recipes are easily adjusted
  • 7% said no and
  • 2% said they don’t know

4. It was also interesting to see where chefs see the dining public trending in the year to come.

Dining out

  • 46% said consumers will be more adventurous, dining out to seek new tastes and foods they can’t make at home
  • 44% said consumers will generally order their favorite food when dining out, but sometimes try trendy menu items
  • 7% said consumers will be more traditional when dining out, only ordering food that they know
  • 4% didn’t know


What’s Not Hot

Of the 198 food items ranked by chefs, these received the highest scores for waning trends (and I must add that I agree with all of these).

  1. Froth/foam/air
  2. Ramen
  3. Gazpacho
  4. Fun-shaped children’s food
  5. Mini-burgers/sliders
  6. Flavored/enhanced water
  7. Bacon-flavored chocolate
  8. Flavored popcorn
  9. Fish collars
  10. Desserts with bacon


What’s Hot in 2013 Video

For more information from NRA on hot food trends for 2013, check out this video!

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What’s Popular Right Now: 2013 Inventive Catering Trends

Catering involves an immense amount of preparation and planning – there is pressure, tight timelines and long days. Between all of the commotion, caterers have to find a way to stay on top and beat industry competition. We’ve laid out three popular trends going into 2013. Knowing what your customers want ahead of time is going to make you and your business standout.

1. Is that an art display?

With media outlets like Food Network and the Cooking Channel, food has become more than just something we eat in order to survive. We are entertained and intrigued by food, which is why; foodie and recipe blogging is one of the fastest growing blog types. Other areas we’re seeing increase in popularity are social sites like Pinterest, which helps to showcase the art of cooking, while creative food displays at weddings, corporate events and parities get people excited about the food they will consume – The old saying goes, ‘you eat with your eyes first’.

2. Locally Sourced Food

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), locally sourced meats secured the No. 1 spot on the top menu trends for 2012. Locally sourced foods have gained popularity over the last few years and for good reason: local food production supports the growth of local communities, creates local jobs and is more environmentally friendly than food produced by large corporations.

The general public is becoming increasingly more educated about food and where food comes from. The desire to eat healthier and boost local economies is only one reason why we don’t see this trend dropping off anytime soon. Caterers have the unique opportunity to work directly with local farms to buy product that are cost effective, fresh and leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

Small plates3. Tasting Menus & Small Plates

Fine dining establishments around the world have perfected the tasting menu concept. Caterers are also getting in on this idea by offering hors d’oeuvre-size dishes with classic and modern spins. Enjoying several different culinary creations is probably the number one reason why tasting menus are becoming popular for catered events. Being able to provide variety and seasonal foods allows more of your guests to be satisfied.

Tasting menus are also great options for hosts with guests who experience food allergies and food sensitivities and small plates can be more affordable than traditional sit down meals, as well as, more flexible. With today’s culture being on the go, small plates and tasting menus allow guests to enjoy delicious foods while socializing.

The Catering Business is Tough

And the competition is keen, that’s why knowing what today’s consumers want (and expect), is vital for winning an event bid. Get to know your local farmers or visit a farmers market, think smaller plates and mini bites, create something pleasing to the eye and you’ll be ahead of the competition going into next year.

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Molecular Gastronomy: Making science, food and eating fun!

Molecular Gastronomy

Have you heard of molecular gastronomy before? No? You’re not alone, molecular gastronomy is a modern style of cooking, and practiced by scientists and chefs who take advantage of many technical innovations from scientific disciplines. Put more simply, think of mixing up drinks like Nitrogen Cooled Lemon Drop Martinis. Or whipping up Crispy Chicken Tacos with Chili Relleno Space Foam.

Dreamstaurant celebrity chef and judge, Ian Kleinman is a pioneering molecular gastronomist and owner of The Inventing Room, a unique catering and food entertainment company based in Denver, CO. His molecular gastronomy recipes include Super Cold & Creamy Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream, Floating Truffles, and Root Beer Floats with Liquid Nitrogen Whipped Ice Cream. Chef Kleinman believes food should be fun and every dining experience should have amazing food, pork bellydrinks and service but also contain an entertainment quality that makes you think about your food and how it’s made instead of mindlessly eating it.

Borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the kitchen, molecular gastronomists concoct surprise after surprise for their diners. You may wonder ‘Can I really eat this?’ or ‘Is it safe?’ The truth is the chemicals used in molecular gastronomy are all of biological origin. Even though they have been purified and some of them processed, the raw material origin is usually marine, plant, animal or microbial. These additives are also used in very, very small amounts and have been approved by EU standards. Plus the science lab equipment used just helps modern gastronomy chefs to do simple things like maintaining the temperature of the cooking water constant (water bath), cooling food at extremely low temperatures fast (liquid nitrogen) or extract flavor from food (evaporator).

space foamIf you’re passionate about cooking, have a creative mind but at the same time have a scientific background, molecular gastronomy is something worth experiencing.

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The Rise of Healthy Kids Meal Options

Chips & CrispsRestaurants focus on developing healthy kid meal options that are more appealing to families.

Pizza, hot dogs, chicken fingers and grilled cheeses are just a few kid-friendly foods available when eating out. Recently, these are the same foods that have come under scrutiny from parents and nutritional experts who worry about what kids are eating.

Chefs and restaurateurs have both business reasons and true concerns for what kids are eating, this is one of the reasons children’s nutrition was projected to be a major trend at foods service establishments during 2012.

The National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” survey of professional chefs determined that healthful meals for young people would be the No. 4 trend in the industry this year.

The National Kids LiveWell Program works in collaboration with Healthy Dining to help parents and children select healthful menu options when dining out. The restaurants that participate in the voluntary program commit to offering healthful meal items for children, with a particular focus on increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium.

The big question that remains is: Are kids eating these healthier meals? From early research the answer is, yes. Teaching kids to eat healthy foods from a young age will help them develop healthy eating patterns for life, offering kid-friendly meals with a variety of vegetables, using proteins that are naturally lower in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals will ensure kids choose healthy foods over processed, fatty foods.

I’m a restaurant owner, how do I join the Kids LiveWell Program?

healthy kids meals

According to “Restaurants that join Kids LiveWell agree to offer and promote a selection of items that meet qualifying nutrition criteria based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.” Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for a full meal:

  • 600 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 770 mg of sodium
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Tap into Better Drink Service with Keg Cocktails

Busy nights at a restaurant bar can be hectic. The chaotic atmosphere will test your bartenders’ skill and your customer’s patience. Cocktail orders and other hand-crafted concoctions act as roadblocks in the bartender’s effort to keep up with the barrage of incoming drink requests. These specialty drinks require more time and effort for the server to prepare and are often a favorite among customers.

One way to continue accepting these complicated drink orders and improve the efficiency of your service is to hire another bartender to help out with mixing cocktails. This may help but it will also add another server to your payroll and creates a crowded space behind the bar. Thankfully this is not your only option.

Keg cocktails offer a trendy solution to your service problem. Large batch cocktails allow your restaurant to continue offering all of those tasty drinks your customers love without slowing down your drink service. From red and white wine to vermouth and sangria to house cocktails, serving specialty drinks has never been easier.

Now I know what you’re thinking: these cocktails can’t possibly be of the same quality as fresh drinks made right at the bar. Not so fast! Drinkers have given these large batch cocktails good reviews. Customers at Mercadito Restaurants in Chicago and Miami reportedly preferred an almost week-old batch of kegged margaritas to those that were made fresh at the bar. The theory behind this is that the ingredients have more time to sit and blend together making the cocktail taste better.

Restaurants that already started using these keg cocktails have some methods that will help keep the drinks fresh and tasting as good as new. Tavernita in Chicago serves up to six on-tap cocktails at a time and currently practices a few different preservation methods to keep drinks fresh.

Tavernita stores large batch cocktails in 50 gallon containers that are pumped with carbon dioxide to keep the drinks fresh. The restaurant also attaches cocktail kegs to agitators that periodically shake the large batches to keep the cocktails mixed well.

Quick service is not the only advantage to keg cocktails. Enabling bartenders to get drink orders out faster large batch cocktails also free up more time for customer service. Serving specialty cocktails in large pre-mixed batches allows bartenders to offer samples to customers as well. Cocktail samples are very rare and could give your bar a unique advantage over the competition.

Get on board with this trend before everyone else does. Keg cocktails are an innovative way to improve your service and offer something drinkers have likely not seen before.

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