Hot Food Trends in 2013

A new food and dining trends report for 2013 was just released by restaurant consultant group Baum & Whiteman, originally two restaurateurs with plenty of experience backing up their reports. The report goes into plenty of detail describing popular food, buzzwords, hot restaurants and aspirations for other restaurants. There’s so much information included that it’s easy to get lost, we we’ve included some of the most interesting points mentioned, and our take on whether or not they will come to fruition in 2013.

We’ve written extensively on the ‘Chipotle-ification’ of fast food chains across the country, and this trend will continue into 2013 as the fast-casual model continues to spread. Several key features that make this model so successful are the bold flavors and ethnic cuisines offered, modern designs, quality ingredients and a great back-story for the restaurant.

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will undergo many beverages to account for shifting consumer preferences. Americans continue to move away from traditional colas and toward more natural options. Starbucks and Jamba Juice are leading the way with a wide range of new products like Tazo Tea Shop and juice bars, and juices will be seen more at everyday restaurants and hotels. Alcohol will be making a huge splash in smoothie and milkshakes, and at bars cocktails will be upgraded with natural and organic ingredients like lemongrass and fresh pomegranate. Rather than hiring new bartenders to account for this new generation of cocktails, many cocktails are initially prepared and stored in barrels to absorb more flavors, driving down costs and working in conjunction with looser laws about pre-mixing liquor.

Miniature versions of your favorite foods are allowing more consumers to eat on the go whenever they choose. Known as “dashboard dining” or the “snackification” of America, items like café bites or chicken dippers are quickly becoming a fourth meal for Americans who snack to relieve stress and save time. This trend is also aided by more sophisticated snacks, food trucks and convenience stores that allow people to eat and drink all day long with fresh food items.

Dine-in restaurants meanwhile will continue to employ bundling strategies to attract customers and guarantee they order a certain amount to eat. Many restaurants like Olive Garden or TGI Friday’s have deals for two or more diners, ensuring a minimum per table, filling seats and creating a limited menu. However other restaurants have employed the opposite strategy, charging much more for family style meals typically involving an excess of one central meat. For instance Momofuku has a $200 Korean “bo saam” family style meal with roast pork, and other restaurants have similar deals involving whole ducks, lambs or other animals served in a variety of ways. These whole animal meals tend to be very profitable, filling tables that are often reserved in advance so chefs know exactly how much to cook, and encouraging customers to over-order cocktails and wine in this kind of environment.

Robotic vending machines have started to pop up in different countries, including a sushi vending machine, a Coca-Cola machine that requires customers to match their dance moves with the machine to receive their beverages, and even a pizza machine. These will continue to expand in the United States, as well as automated kiosks to receive orders at fast food restaurant; already implemented in Japan.

Some of the brands typically seen at grocery stores will be expanding to their own restaurant locations. Chobani and Dannon will both be opening their own yogurt bars, and Barilla plans to open a chain of pasta restaurants. Some of these stores will be strictly promotional, and others may expand into something much more if consumer reception is adequate. Conversely, many restaurant brands may begin to appear in grocery stores.

Lastly, greens are making a comeback in a big way, particularly seaweed, kale and mustard greens. Seaweed will appear in crackers, cereal and fries and the already popular kale chips may soon make a splash in sandwiches and burgers. With consumers shifting toward organic and natural ingredients, buzzwords like ‘artisan’, ‘handmade’ and ‘hand battered’ will appear in all kinds of foods, especially at fast food restaurants.

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