Posts Tagged ‘menu trends’

How to Appeal to the Typical American Wine Drinker

August 8, 2014

Despite the fact that the U.S. has become the single-largest market for wine (passing France last year), American wine drinkers aren’t easy to understand. In part, this is due to the fact that there really isn’t any such thing as the “typical” American wine drinker. We come from diverse backgrounds with very different motivations for drinking wine. How then, as the restaurant owner, do you know which is the best wine to offer on the menu?

One way is to consider how customers make their choices when it comes to wine. Constellation Brands, a global wine, spirits and beer producer and marketer put out an interesting survey that breaks Americans into six groups—each with a different motivator behind their choices in wine. The results are telling, in terms of how to appeal to the American wine populace.

American Wine Drinkers Driven by Price and Habit

According to the study, price is the top consideration for 21% of American wine drinkers. The belief in this group is that a person can get great wine without paying a lot of money for it. The only way they are going to try something new on your wine menu is if it’s within the same price range as their standby favorites. These folk like to buy cheap good wine and drink a lot of it. In fact, wine accounts for 38% of their total consumption of alcoholic beverages. The other group who is unlikely to try anything new are the everyday loyals (20%) who drink wine as a regular part of their day to day routines. They know what they like and tend to stick to it. Appealing to these two groups is a matter of providing good, cost-effective wine and favorites they already know about.

Appealing to American Wine Enthusiasts and Image Seekers

Some Americans drink wine as a status symbol, others are genuine enthusiasts who love everything about the ritual and experience of wine. Both can be profitable groups for the enterprising restaurateur. For the image seekers (18%), the important thing is that the wine they are drinking makes them look good. They enjoy trendy labels and sweeter wines. The enthusiast group (12%) is more into food and wine pairings as well as new adventures in the wine tasting world. They tend toward bolder, more robust reds. Both groups appreciate knowing the back-story of the wine they drink and tend toward options on the classier “in-the-know” side of the menu.

Appealing to the American Wine Drinking Newbie and Those that Are Just Plain Overwhelmed

People’s reactions to the world of wine typically goes one of two ways—they’re either overwhelmed or intrigued. Those that are overwhelmed (19%) typically like to drink wine, but are intimidated by the complex array of options presented when trying to buy it. This group is going to get scared away from ordering wine if they don’t see something on your menu that they recognize. The group that is new to, and intrigued by, the world of wine (12%), has a different reaction. They still tend toward sweeter wines but are looking for authenticity and trying to learn about the beverages they are drinking. Like the enthusiasts, this group is going to be interested in the stories of the wine makers themselves, and are the segment most likely to buy organic and biodynamic wines.

Understanding these different groups of American wine drinkers helps the restaurateur make smart decisions about what to include on the wine list. Some restaurants will put a little something for everyone on the drink menu; others will cater to a specific type of wine drinker. What you choose for your menu is entirely dependent on who you’re trying to attract to your establishment.

Food Trends to Watch in the 2014 Restaurant Arena

January 28, 2014

This time of year, everyone’s looking ahead trying to guess what the new year will bring. In the restaurant industry, there are curiosity upstarts which are likely to be passing fads, as well as a number of food trends that have been slowly gaining steam for years. Both of these menu trends are quite likely to take front and center in the years to come. Here are the highlights of some of the more important and interesting food trends for 2014.

Good-For-You and Guilt Free Dining

Both health consciousness and environmental responsibility have been movements on the rise in the general populace for years now, and all reports indicate that they aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, when asked which food fads are most likely to remain hot menu trends ten years from now, chefs around the country said environmentally sustainable foods and local sourcing are the top two movements and here to stay. This was followed by health and nutrition, children’s nutrition and gluten-free food options. 

In response to the demand for veggie, gluten-free and eco-friendly dining establishments, healthy ‘green’ restaurants are popping up all over the place and steadily moving into the mainstream. Predictions show that in 2014, early investments in green restaurants could well pay off. 

Single Item Restaurants and À La Carte Menus

As consumers get more and more accustomed to the ease and convenience of being able to order exactly what they want, when they want it, many restaurants have found success by offering extensive à la carte menus. Not only do such offerings make the customer feel catered to, but they actually can increase a restaurant’s bottom line since à la carte orders tend to ring up higher totals than traditional plate meals.

What’s more, there has also been an increase in the popularity of single item restaurants, or establishments that focus on serving only one item, and doing it extremely well. For example, there’s a restaurant in Los Angeles that specializes only in sausages. There’s another very popular bakery in Chicago that serves only meatloaf. Even gourmet PB & J and macaroni and cheese shops are being greeted with open arms. There’s something to be said for focusing on doing one thing, very well.

Strange Cuts of Meat and Novelty Items Mark 2014 Restaurant Trends

The final trend we’ll mention in this post is the recent rise in the popularity of luxury and novelty food items. While the specific ones mentioned here may be passing fads that are hot now and forgotten later, people’s love of the strange and new will never cease. Year after year, we will see trends from the novelty category hitting the top of the charts. 

This year it looks to be such items as ice cubes infused with herbs and other ingredients to flavor cocktails, strange cuts of meat such as tripe, beef tongue and beef pastrami being used in chili, and cheese steaks and sliders. Restaurants are now focusing on providing a neurosensory dining experience with meals in the dark, tactile tableware, diffusers controlling temperature and aroma, or music and visuals cued to courses. 

Some of these food trends, such as hyper-local sourcing and healthy eating, are certainly here to stay. Others, such as beef tongue in your chili, may be trends that are over before they really get going. Either way, it pays to pay attention to what’s hot now, what’s likely to stay hot in the future, and how your restaurant can best position itself to take advantage of these movements.

The Forecast is Out: Menu Trends for 2014

January 8, 2014

Every year, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) surveys chefs from the American Culinary Federation to find out what menu trends they expect to see in the upcoming year – as well as what they see as yesterday’s news and perennial favorites. This year’s survey had nearly 1300 respondents rating 258 items. Here’s a review of the results:

Today’s Consumers are more Interested than ever in what They Eat and where it came From

As was the case last year, locally sourced meat, seafood, and produce remain as the top ‘hot trends’ of 2014. Environmental sustainability, healthy kids’ meals, children’s nutrition, and hyper-local sourcing followed in close pursuit. Gluten-free cuisine jumped from 9th to 5th place in this year’s annual list, and was joined by a trend towards non-wheat noodles and pasta (such as those made from buckwheat, quinoa or rice), up from 12th place last year. Farm or estate branded items and sustainable seafood rounded out the top 10 list of expected menu trends for 2014.

As opposed to temporary fads, these menu trends reflect larger shifts in our modern society which have been evolving for years. As health and environmental consciousness increases, it’s no surprise that consumers want products that reflect those values. A number of restaurants have already remodeled their menus to reflect these changes, including several large chain restaurants. Gluten-free items, for instance, are now nearly so commonplace on restaurant menus that consumers are more surprised not to see them there.

Being transparent about where restaurants are getting their food has led to several successful marketing campaigns riding on messages of integrity. The bottom line is that these trends are here to stay, and it pays to pay attention to them.

The Menu Trends that made the Biggest Gains or Losses for the 2014 Forecast

The menu trends that made the largest jumps in this year’s survey (but didn’t quite make it on the top 10 list) were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The ones with the biggest fall in the ladder of “what’s hot” were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, and organic coffee.

The 2014 Forecast for Alcoholic Beverage Menus

In terms of alcohol trends, the top five forecasted for 2014 were: micro-distilled and artisan spirits – locally produced beer, wine, or spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, “culinary cocktails” which use savory ingredients typically found in the kitchen rather than behind the bar, and regional signature cocktails. Cocktails, in particular, represent a particularly easy way to dress up the beverage menu – especially when sourced from local favorites!

In sum, the top 10 menu forecast for 2014 seems to be putting a greater focus on health and environmental sustainability than ever before. When asked what they thought the menu trends are going to look like ten years from now, the chefs put environmental sustainability at the top of the list, following closely by local sourcing and a focus on health and nutrition for kids and adults alike. Given this sentiment, it’s wise to incorporate elements of these trends into your menus now.

Nation’s Restaurant News Announces Upcoming Event – Menu Trends & Directions

August 23, 2011

Menu Trends & Direction will be held September 27-28, 2011. If you are involved in menu planning, development, or promotion, this event offers the education and networking that restaurateurs want to keep up with culinary trends and menu planning.


The event is open to foodservice operators only. You must be a direct employee of a restaurant. If you are a consultant, marketer, manufacturer, or advertising agency, you will not be allowed on site. Official registration will be confirmed by NRN.


This year’s event will be held at Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. The resort has over 400,000 square feet in meeting and exhibition space and over 4 acres of indoor gardens, dining, and shopping. For six years in a row, it has received the AAA Four Diamond Award.


Some of this year’s speakers include:


  •  VP of Food for Panera Breads, Dan Kish
  • President of Culinary Development at the Cheesecake Factory, Bob Okura
  • Vanderbilt University’s Director of Dining, Camp Howard
  • Executive Editor of NRN, Sarah Lockyer


The meeting will include interactive round table discussions, brainstorming sessions, and presentations on the current state of the economy and the effect of commodities pertaining to the foodservice industry.


If you work in the foodservice industry as a manager or executive, you are probably aware of the gravity of respect that is given to NRN. NRN acts as the main resource for trends, information, and news in the foodservice and restaurant industry. Housing over 19 full-time editors, the staff includes CIA graduates, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, food columnist and former restaurant and hotel executives.


If you are considering attending this event, it is a great opportunity to network in the foodservice industry and to learn about current trends in menu planning whether you work in fast food, casual dining, or fine dining. Registration is $350 and will be confirmed by NRN with a letter of acceptance.