2011 National Restaurant Trends
December 03, 2010 - News
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WASHINGTON—Local sourcing of ingredients, healthy children’s meals, sustainable seafood and gluten-free cuisine will be the hottest trends on restaurant menus in 2011, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot" survey of more than 1,500 professional chefs.

The association surveyed 1,527 American Culinary Federation member chefs in October 2010, asking them to rate 226 individual food/beverage items, preparation methods and culinary themes divided into categories as a “hot trend," “yesterday’s news" or “perennial favorite" on restaurant menus in 2011.

The top 10 menu trends for 2011 will be locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, sustainability as a culinary theme, nutritious kids’ dishes, hyper-local items, children’s nutrition as a culinary theme, sustainable seafood, gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items, back-to-basics cuisine and farm-branded ingredients.

Rounding out the top 20 hot menu trends are artisan liquor, locally-produced wine and beer, smaller portions for a smaller price, organic produce, nutrition as a culinary theme, culinary cocktails, newly fabricated cuts of meat, fruit/vegetable children’s side items, ethnic-inspired breakfast items and artisan cheese.

The survey also found 30 percent of the chefs said that mobile food trucks and pop-up restaurants will be the hottest operational trend in 2011; 18 percent said restaurants with gardens will be the top trend, and 17 percent said social media marketing.

Fifty-five percent of the chefs said they are currently using social media for professional purposes, and another 16 percent said they plan to start using such channels.

Micro-distilled spirits is the top item on the drinks menu, followed by locally produced beer and wine, culinary cocktails, food-beer pairings and beer dinners. Specialty iced tea top the nonalcoholic beverage category.

The chefs also were asked how chefs and restaurateurs can best promote health and nutrition. Twenty-one percent said create diet-conscious menu selections (including lower-sodium, -calorie and -fat items); 19 percent said increase fresh produce options on menus; and 17 percent said get involved in school nutrition/children's education efforts.

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