2012 trends: Familiar food and clashing flavors - SmartBrief

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2012 trends: Familiar food and clashing flavors

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Restaurant and Foodservice

Business and menu trends are likely to be intimately tied next year, as restaurant chains avoid the risk of alienating patrons with extreme menu changes and lower-priced mom-and-pop eateries and food trucks become a hotbed of experimental flavors, according to trend reports.

In its list of 2012 predictions, Technomic said consumers will be as reluctant to take chances with their food dollars as many restaurants next year, and the result at many chains and higher-end establishments likely will be “comfort food with a twist,” such as wood-fired pizza and artisan sandwiches.

Baum + Whiteman took it further, agreeing that chains likely will play it safe, but the consultancy said independents at the low end of the spectrum likely will burst forth with spicy surprises, such as chipotle pork chop sandwiches with burnt sugar glaze. “This is what’s emerging: a multiethnic, multisensory dining experience where flavors clash on purpose,” according to the company.

More Technomic predictions

  • Rising commodity costs will have restaurants doing less with more, eschewing extra ingredients and pricey cuts of meat as they seek to keep the budget in line.
  • Restaurant menus will get even more transparent, as a small-but-growing group of consumers seek information beyond calorie counts — they want to know about the source of their food and who’s growing it.
  • Flexible formats will increase as eateries shift from fast-casual at lunch to full-service at dinner, to meet the needs of different day parts and gear up catering operations to monetize unused kitchen capacity.

More forecasts from Baum + Whiteman

  • Not only will food-truck operators mix up more creative dishes next year, but dozens also will take off their wheels and open brick-and-mortar establishments.
  • Chefs will shift from piling food high on a plate to spreading it out in tidy, “caterpillarlike” lines, requiring a change from round to rectangular plates.
  • The firm’s prediction that the “gourmet burger” trend would jump the shark this year was premature, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in 2012.
  • Eateries run the risk of overusing terms such as “artisan,” “heirloom” and “local,” to the point that they’ll lose their meaning. Baum + Whiteman also warned of a glut of farmers markets and “too many chefs smoking too many foods.”

What trends do you see coming next year? Tell us about it in the comments.