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4 unexpected menu trends to expect at Restaurant Trends & Directions

veggie burger

Expect the unexpected—that’s the theme of the menu trends presentation during next month’s Restaurant Trends & Directions conference in Chicago. “The accelerated pace of demographic, cultural, and technological shifts has led to rapidly and continuously evolving consumer needs,” says Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic. “Today’s operators and suppliers must stay on top of emerging trends, offering ever new and exciting menu items and flavors to satisfy today’s consumers.”

The presentation will delve into what the new rules of the menu game look like at restaurants. Standard menu categories—like chicken, vegetables and beverages—are changing with the times. Operators have more competition than ever and in turn are finding new ways to innovate. Here are four teasers to the “Menu-Centric: Exploring Trends in Flavors, Ingredients and Prep Methods” presentation.

Signatures … are switching it up

Operators like McDonald’s that have been in the game for years are now shaking up their signature offerings to maintain their core customer base while drawing younger Gen Zers and millennials to their brands.

Mashups … are menu norms; next up: mock foods

Operators from Taco Bell to California Pizza Kitchen have rolled out mashup items combining various mealparts and dayparts in recent years. The new “wow factor” items are mock foods—vegetables that are menued to look or even taste like meat—and new ingredients growing in the marketplace that are geared toward reworking traditional recipes for vegan and other diets.

Sauces … are operators’ entry into new global cuisines

Sauces allow operators to differentiate and add customization without breaking the bank. And consumers are increasingly asking for more global fare on menus. 1 + 1 = global sauces on the rise. Topics to be covered: Filipino sauces, global relishes and the new olive oil and balsamic.

Plants … are getting as much attention as meat

Vegetables are no longer just an afterthought. Plants are cheaper than meat, can be subbed per season, align with health trends and are being innovatively featured at the center of the plate. Some items on the rise: veggie “steaks,” veggie “wings” and brined, smoked and charred veggies.

The Restaurant Trends & Directions conference brings the top executives from successful emerging chains together for three days of menu development, performance discussions and, most importantly, peer-to-peer networking.

Armed with Technomic research, attendees of Restaurant Trends & Directions are better prepared to tackle challenges, leverage relationships and refine marketing plans. Register now.



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