The seven experienced chefs at the Kraft Culinary Centre joined together to craft their own 2012 predictions. The food trends they chose are bolstered by their working in the trenches every day—along with year-long analysis of internal food casts and menu insights. Their back-of-the-house predictions range from reimaging the past to a rededication to simplicity.
Customization reigns: From letting diners customize their whole experience through small-bites menus to choosing the cooking techniques for their proteins, giving customers control increases interest. Just remember not to let them do everything.
Vintage desserts: Favorite fare from county fairs and carnivals continue to gain traction on menus. Think funnel cakes and caramel-apple flavored ice cream, malts and milkshakes, cotton candy and marshmallows.
Specialization: Concepts that specialize in one food have been popping up in the past, but this year, an even more concentrated push will arise. Call it the reemergence of grilled-cheese sandwich shops, dumpling houses, rice pudding parlors and soup kitchens.
Casualization of menus: Diners seek value, but want memorable, delicious food. They’re looking for casual over white tablecloth, but won’t sacrifice the experience. Flavors drive the ship here: authentic, layered flavors.
Better better-for-you: More restaurants are going to be paying attention to better-for-you options, creating better tasting, healthy dishes that will attract a wider audience. Flavor will reign as the driving force in the creation of healthy menu items.
Restaurant/market combinations: The restaurant that incorporates a marketplace is going to gain traction this year. Diners are more interested in the source of their ingredients, as well as freshness and authenticity. Convenience is a priority too. A fresh food market with takeout options fulfills all these desires while adding to the experiential, “foodie” thing.
Food as experience: Restaurant customers want to be immersed in food culture and experience. Creative and theatrical ways of preparation and presentation are going to be a hot trend this year.