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Ten restaurant trends for 2012

Happy New Year! I hope your restaurant or foodservice operation had a busy and fruitful holiday season, and that you saw increases in sales and profits in 2011.

Last month, we took a look at marketing trends for 2012. This month, we will focus on restaurant trends for this year. Restaurants have been moving towards offering their guests a total “experience”, not just a meal, and that trend continues to grow this year. Technology, healthy food and recreating the comforts of home will also play big roles in this year’s food trends.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, foresees these food trends for 2012:

  1. Communal dining

This year, more and more new restaurants will be designed with long communal tables in the centre of the room, as opposed to single tables or booths. Counter and bar dining will also be played up. In order to enhance the dining experience, many restaurateurs want to create camaraderie amongst its customers by having them sit together. Some restaurants will even go so far as to serve everyone at the communal table the same food at the same time.

  1. No-time dining

As our culture continues to move away from the 9 to 5 workday, a restaurant’s hours must also reflect this shift. Expect to see more restaurants offering all-day breakfast, longer lunch hours, afternoon snacks and more late night fare.

  1. Snacking

Our culture is also moving away from eating three square meals a day. Many diets and health food experts encourage people to eat six small meals a day, so expect to see more snack, tapas or dim sum items on menus, as more customers will want to pop in for a small snack as opposed to an entire meal, or share a selection of snacks with their dining partners.

  1. Grandma’s recipes

Cherished family recipes will soon be appearing on a menu near you. Expect to see dishes straight from Grandma’s recipe box, or cuisines built from Grandma’s recipes tweaked with the latest cooking trends.

  1. Homegrown gardens

The local food movement has been growing rapidly over the past few years, and is no longer a trend, but a way of life. Many restaurants have begun to look into growing their own produce with rooftop, backyard or vertical gardens. Expect to see more dishes featuring produce grown onsite at the restaurant.

  1. Mobile restaurants

High-class street food will soon be available on every street corner. The growing popularity of food carts, food stalls and food fairs has helped make street food a serious competitor to great restaurant food. Today’s street food goes far beyond a hot dog stand. Many food cart operators offer unique and delicious items that can’t be found anywhere else. And most importantly, street food is still cheap.

  1. iPad ordering

Servers in restaurants will soon be trading their pads and pens for iPads or iPods to take your orders. This modern POS system combines cloud computing, wireless technology and touch-screen interface to allow servers to take and send orders from within the network, so that even before the server has left the table, the order has already been sent to the kitchen. Payments can also be processed using the iPad at the table. At quick-serve foodservice operations, expect to see iPad kiosks where customers would be able to order their own food.

  1. Potatoes

The potato has taken a backseat over the last decade since the no-carb fad began. But the spud is making a comeback in 2012. The potato is a great gluten-free alternative that is cheap and diverse. Health food experts are also singing the praises of the nutritional benefits of the potato, which is packed with minerals and nutrients, particularly the skin. Expect to see more dishes featuring a wide range of potatoes including purple potatoes, fingerlings, sweet potatoes and yams, and perhaps the resurgence of an old bar favourite – potato skins.

  1. Healthier kids offerings

So much focus has been placed on getting our kids to eat healthier foods over the past few years. Recently, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative in the U.S. has forced several large American chain restaurants to roll out healthier kids’ menus. Expect to see more restaurants offering healthier menu items for kids that will feature more lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

  1. Beer pairings

We have all seen menus offering wine pairings, but this year, expect to see more beer pairings. The choice and diversity of craft beer today has created increased interest in cooking with beer, and pairing it with food. There are now thousands of different beers on the market, ranging from light lagers to heavy stouts, so the wide range of choice makes beer an ideal mate for pairing with food.


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