At the start of every year, there are a flurry of food trend predictions from experts, pundits, researchers and bloggers. Some seem a little obscure (e.g. “popcorn is the snack for 2013!” or “we’ll be eating more skin!”) and some more mundane, but some common themes and underlying drivers emerge when you look at the big picture.
First, there’s wide consensus that better times are ahead for the foodservice industry in 2013. The economic outlook and overall consumer sentiment are the best they’ve been since the start of the great recession. Perhaps most importantly, consumers are reporting an eagerness to get back to the (foodservice) table, with 67% reporting they’ll visit restaurants more often when they feel their finances are in better shape.
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
Almost all of the predictions for 2013 looked at rising commodity pricing for beef and its impact on the menu. Watch for an increase in dishes featuring chicken, more vegetarian items and creative ways to use less red meat.
WHERE IT’S HAPPENING:
Applebee’s – Chipotle Cream 4-oz. Steak & Shrimp: Sirloin and chipotle lime shrimp with fried red potatoes, black bean corn salsa, mushrooms, red peppers, red onions and zesty chipotle cream sauce.
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant – Jerk Chicken Sliders Summer Appetizer: Seared jerk rubbed chicken on mini slider buns topped with fresh tropical fruit salsa.
Bagger Dave’s Legendary Burger Tavern – Vegetarian Nacho Average Burger: Veggie black bean burger with cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream, nacho chips lettuce, pico de gallo and jalapeños on a honey wheat bun…Ole!
Barilla Insight: Pasta dishes, especially those with high-protein Barilla® Protein+™ pastas, have long been a secret weapon for savvy operators to balance their plate or menu costs and insulate against spikes in protein prices. With pasta as a base, you can either use less protein or go meatless and still have a customer satisfied with the meal and the value for the money.
Another area of consensus is “Clean Food, Clean Conscience” as Mintel’s 2013 Trends Overview puts it. This is much more than sustainable meats or organic produce. It also encompasses clean labels (think “Pink Slime” backlash) and transparency from the operator to the customer about what’s on the menu. Add to that a movement started in fine dining, but moving steadily into the mainstream: do-it-yourself/house-made ingredients, everything from salumi to honey from beehives on the roof.
WHERE IT’S HAPPENING:
Au Bon Pain Chipotle Turkey & Avocado with Antibiotic-free turkey
Epic Burger’s “Mindful Burger” philosophy
Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity”
Barilla Insight: “Clean” food and house-made signature items can be expensive, but pasta can be a versatile platform to showcase them while protecting the bottom line and making affordable to guests.
 American Express MarketBrief, December 2012