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The latest edition says appetizers displayed modest growth while healthy menu items experienced strong growth.

The Trend Tracker report offers a new snapshot of what's appearing and falling off of menus among 100 leading independents, 150 emerging chains, and the larger Top 250 chains.

Organized into nine major menu categories, the Trend Tracker report serves as a convenient top-line summary of the menu shifts tracked by the database of over 500 menus. Among the menu trends noted in the report:

< li> The appetizer category displayed modest growth in the second half of 2005. Emerging chains were most likely to add specialty salads, whereas independents focused on new appetizers with seafood ingredients such as smoked and grilled salmon, tuna and prawns. Among the Top 250 chains, appetizer additions featured new salads and spicy finger foods.

< li> There was small growth in entrees, with both emerging chains and the Top 250 adding charbroiled and grilled chicken offerings. Glazes with Asian influences were also a popular new paring with chicken. Independents, on the other hand, focused on simple preparation techniques. It is noteworthy that several independents are using pureed popcorn as a meat-coating batter before frying.

< li> Healthy menu items experienced strong activity over the six-month reporting period, particularly among emerging chains, which grew this category by 50 percent over the first half of 2005. Grilled chicken was a common ingredient in many of the new healthy offerings. Independents tended to focus more on healthy versions of decadent desserts.

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