Keeping up with the latest and hottest trends in food service could be a full time job in itself. Luckily for you, The Back Burner is here to keep track and distill things down into manageable chunks. This is a quick rundown of the trends we’ve been tracking over the past couple months, covering everything from weird new menu offerings to radical new approaches to management:
1. The Conflict Between Local Food and Local Government – As I have noted on The Back Burner before, more and more restaurants are sourcing their food locally. The trend has taken off quickly, and, at least in Culver City, CA, the municipal government is grappling with how to regulate urban gardens.
2. For All The Hype, Are Restaurants Really Using Social Media? – For all the buzz around using social media like Twitter and Facebook as marketing tools for restaurants, a recent study by Chalkboard.com indicates the majority of restaurants aren’t catching on.
3. Extreme Mixology: Inhaling Vaportinis– Mixology is a hot trend in food service. The Red Kiva Lounge in Chicago has apparently taken mixology to a new level with VaporTinis: a shot of alcohol that’s heated, and, instead of being drunk, is inhaled as it evaporates from the heat.
4. Healthy Menu? Don’t Tell Your Customers – Ask anyone sitting on their couch around dinnertime if they want a healthy pizza, and you’ll probably get a lukewarm response. Not that people don’t want to eat healthier. As I have discussed in the past, that doesn’t always translate well to the moment of truth when a patron actually makes their decision.
5. No Training Budget? Spend Nothing But Time And Succeed – According to a new study by the Council of Hotel And Restaurant Trainers (CHART), 53% of the restaurants surveyed had cut back on their employee training budgets. Only 19% increased their budget, with the rest remaining the same.
6. Menu Trends: Hibiscus Flavors – Hibiscus, the beautiful tropical flower, is now making its way into cocktails, teas, and desserts in some of the trendiest urban restaurants. The taste is described as both fruity and floral, with a tartness not unlike lemon.
7. California & Vermont Restaurants: Are You Compliant? – If you’re in the food service industry in either California or Vermont, then this blog post is for you. New legislation in these two states changes the kind of faucets and pipe fittings that can be installed in restaurants and commercial kitchens starting early next year.
8. Restaurant Management: Use Creative Compensation Strategies – Some restaurants have begun to rethink their compensation plans. The best kind of compensation is the kind that motivates the employee to bring their priorities in line with the priorities and goals of the restaurant. These strategies are different depending on whether you’re talking about Front of House or Back of House employees.
9. Are You Ready For Flu Season? – Unfortunately, the grim reality is everyone is going to have to take steps to combat the spread of flu this winter, and restaurants are no exception. Organizations like the National Restaurant Association are already educating restaurants about ways to inhibit the spread of viruses, and the food service industry as a whole is taking this flu season very seriously.
10. Restaurants Cooking With A South American Super Crop – This is a story about how an Incan super crop is starting to take over health food stores and trendy restaurants in the U.S. The rest of the world is already on board with this mysterious super plant; we’re just now catching up.
11. New York City Health Department Finds Menu Labeling Affects Consumer Behavior – Nutrition information on menus is a trend in food service that doesn’t seem to be going away. Legislation is still working its way through Congress that would require menu labeling. In the meantime, New York City has had its own menu labeling law for fast food chains in place for some time now. The question has been, as critics love to point out, exactly how effective is a list of nutrition information on helping consumers make better decisions?