A few weeks ago, we took at look at how last year’s food predictions played out. This week, it’s time to start looking ahead, with new food and restaurant forecasts from New York consultants Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Co. and San Francisco-based Andrew Freeman & Co.
First to business
Baum & Whiteman’s report brings a hopeful note for fine-dining restaurants, many of which have been struggling to fill seats since the downturn began. “Average spend may not rebound fully, and lunches will still be weak, but at least seats will be filled at dinner — and not necessarily with coupon-bearing bargain hunters who are something of a plague among recession-battered mid-priced casual restaurants.”
Freeman sees another bright spot, as more couples jump into the industry, self-funding their own small restaurants and putting their personal stamps on every aspect of the meal, often with one-of-a-kind results such as the Garden Grown Herb Salad Topped with Homemade Curds and Whey with Eucalyptus Oil at Sons & Daughters in San Francisco. Freeman also looks forward to more single-purpose eateries dedicated to doing one thing extremely well, such as the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. “Don’t be surprised to see the Peanut Butter Palace, French Dippity Dog or even The Big Biscuit, serving biscuit sandwiches and benedicts,” he writes.
On the downside, restaurants are more likely to implement cost-cutting measures that come at the cost of customer service, Baum & Whiteman predict. Practices such as eliminating credit cards and reservations, raising wine-by-the-glass prices and setting limits on how long guests can occupy a table may save pennies but they have the potential to cost restaurants dearly in terms of reputation and customer loyalty.
Another word of caution: eateries will see more competition than ever from non-traditional players, especially drug stores and convenience stores, a trend most likely to impact quickserves and fast casuals. Expect to see more quickserve chains respond by striking deals to open their own branded eateries inside more of the stores, as they seek to reclaim their customers.
Finally on the business side, eateries will continue to battle competition from growing armies of food truck operators, spurring more municipalities to consider new regulations that make it tougher to launch mobile eateries.
Now for the foodies
Both reports say the cupcake craze has crested, and Freeman predicts that pie will take its place next year. Frozen treats will also be hot, especially ice pops, write Baum & Whiteman. Not the traditional cherry and orange ice pops of your childhood, the new generation of frozen stuff is focused on fresh, local ingredients, resulting in often exotic products like tamarind and passion fruit at La Newyorkina in Manhattan and Mexican chocolate and orange-mango-ancho at Locopops in Raleigh, N.C.
On the savory side, new twists on classic Italian dishes are appearing everywhere, from the growth of artisan, wood-fired pizza places complete with mozzarella bars to The Meatball Shop in New York that regularly boasts lines for its five kinds of meatballs and four kinds of sauces; the new concepts are likely to spur copycats in 2011, Baum & Whiteman predict.
A sampler of other flavor predictions
From Baum & Whiteman:
* Sandwiches will get more ethnic, from Mexican cemitas to Vietnamese banh mi
* “Gross is good.” Restaurants will concoct more calorie bombs and consumers will gobble them up, despite knowing what’s good for them.
* Grits are likely to gain in popularity beyond breakfast
And three from Freeman:
* Meatless Mondays and veggie-centric menus will continue to expand
* Speaking of veggies – many will find new fans who find they love their sprouts and turnips, as long as they’re fried
* Chefs will add flavors by finishing more dishes with smoked olive oil, smoked butter and even smoked cumin