Restaurant trends 2010 – quality more important than price

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 23rd November 2009

Restaurants around the world are expected to follow up a trying year led by promotions with a return to focussing on quality. The price focus that has driven sales this year will remain to an extent but it is produce quality and new ingredients that will likely lure in diners, according to market research firm Mintel.

“Restaurants are redefining ‘value’ on the menu, moving away from the cost-savings that were so important earlier this year to incorporate high quality ingredients, classic flavour combinations and authentic, old-fashioned preparations. In 2010, we expect menus to go back to the basic roots of good food and drink,” Maria Caranfa, Registered Dietitian and senior analyst for Mintel Menu Insights, advised.

restaurant food

Trend #1: Classically simple
Many restaurants did less pioneering during the recession and what did they discover? Simple sells. In 2010, Mintel Menu Insights predicts chefs will harness the power of classic combinations and simple, pure ingredients. So far in 2009, the top new menu item for US chain restaurants is an all-American classic: the burger. Look for more nostalgic, decadent pleasures on the menu: bacon, lobster, classic cocktails, milk-and-cookies and donut hole desserts.

Trend #2: Restaurant-grown
Just because people don’t have time to cook doesn’t mean they don’t crave homemade food. Next year, watch chefs add a homegrown – or rather, restaurant-grown – touch where they can: artisan breads and cheeses, house-infused spirits, locally sourced produce and meats. “Rustic” will be the buzzword that describes imperfectly-shaped pizza crusts and mashed potatoes. Restaurant-grown items are also a great way for restaurants to differentiate themselves.

Trend #3: Dining out in
“If you build it, they will come” isn’t working quite the way it used to, so it may be time for restaurants to go to their customers, according to the researchers. Burger King is one of the latest to sell its food (French fries) in retail stores, but expect more retail-restaurant connections in 2010. Additionally, more restaurants will uphold relationships with customers by using iPhone apps for menu changes and online ordering.

Trend #4: Inherent health
Nearly nine in 10 surveyed think eating healthy is important, but 63% say it’s difficult at restaurants because there aren’t enough healthy items. As a result, 2009 saw a trend toward healthier menus, but 2010 will see a sharp increase in good-for-you food and drink. Tomorrow’s healthy menus will feature inherently nutritious items – those with fiber, omega-3, vitamins and antioxidants – that deliver on flavour too.

Trend #5: Regional ethnic
In this great melting pot, it’s no wonder people love ethnic food. In July, four in five adults told Mintel they’d eaten ethnic food at a restaurant in the past month. Cuisines like Mexican, Chinese and Italian have become so mainstream, however, that it’s time to dig deeper. Restaurants will increasingly pinpoint specific regions like Tuscany or look to mainstream the cuisine of countries like Brazil or Morocco to develop tomorrow’s ethnic food, Mintel concludes.