Restaurant trends 2009

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 11th December 2008

The financial turmoil of 2008 hurt some restaurants as consumers sought to save money by eating at home more often. The impact was fortunately softer in Australia than America where the restaurant industry, from fast food to fine dining, is determined to get people in the door in 2009.

Mintel Menu Insights, which tracks US restaurant menus, expects five trends to influence foodservice in 2009. Restaurants will re-invent comfort food, mix up their cocktails, focus on fresh ingredients, take Mediterranean food to the next level, and tell stories.

Maria Caranfa, Director of Mintel Menu Insights, believes next year will be telling for the restaurant industry. “This recession will persist into early 2009, and potentially much longer, so restaurants need to be ready for customers who feel tired, overwhelmed and tapped out financially,” she noted. “Foodservice leaders need to find innovative methods, enticing entrees and fun, new preparations to keep people excited about going out to eat.”

Ms Caranfa points to Mintel research that shows nearly half of Americans say they spend their extra money dining out as a positive sign for the future. “There are plenty willing diners out there. Restaurateurs just need to focus on the key elements of food and experience that resonate,” she advised.

In 2009, Mintel Menu Insights expects:

Comfort food reinvented
Often connected to times of economic recession, comfort food is what people crave when they’re feeling down.

restaurant meal

Expect this phenomenon to hold true in 2009 as people look for warm, familiar favourites on the menu. Restaurants will make comfort food new by increasing their use of slow-cooking. Slow-baked, slow-grilled, braised and poached will become “it” preparation methods as chefs find ways to provide maximum flavor affordably.

New, innovative cocktails
Ms Caranfa thinks 2009 will feature an explosion of exciting new cocktails. Next year, expect interesting new ingredients to add flavour and texture to cocktails. Ginger, cucumber, chile pepper and even beer could gain a strong presence paired with gin, tequila, pisco or framboise.

Fresher food
Fresh, natural and pure are to take over from scientific food experiments. Mintel Menu Insights has already seen “fresh” labelling increase by 22% since early 2006, and the company expects 2009 menus to abound in fresh foods and artisan ingredients. “I think we’ll see a strong increase in the presence of local farm names on menus, as restaurants attempt to convey the fresh, inherently good nature of their food,” Ms Caranfa commented.

More Mediterranean
Encompassing the flavours of Spain, Italy, Greece and the Middle East, Mediterranean food is already relatively popular in the US and Australia. But in 2009, restaurants will stretch beyond familiar items like tapas, gyros and hommus. Menus will begin to call out the specific country of origin for “Mediterranean foods” like Spanish olives, Greek
cheese and Middle Eastern yoghurt sauce. Also, more authentic Mediterranean dishes could be an option for fast casual restaurants.

Surrounded by negative news about the economy and obesity rates, restaurants will try to make diners happy next year. By telling stories on the menu about a food’s preparation, health benefits or origin, restaurants can help people feel good about what they’re eating. “We’ve already seen an increase in positive messaging on the menu,” Ms Caranfa noted. “Next year, we expect a further move away from yesterday’s ‘low’s’ and ‘no’s’ of eating well.”