The Restaurant Business: An Eater's Perspective

My reading has been on the upswing recently. I finished these two books and really enjoyed them.

Restaurant marketing reports have also captivated my attention. While I'm not a restaurateur or a marketer, it's certainly fun eating in different restaurants. And I'm always curious about and interested in how things are sold to consumers. Reading about the restaurant business gives us diners some different insights.

Isn't it annoying when you Google a restaurant and cannot find a website? Or they don't list their menu on the website? Why is that? How come out of the blue a few years ago, every menu suddenly had ten kinds of sliders? Did people really like sliders that much? Had there been a pent-up slider demand that was suddenly being met?

These questions pop into my head now and again. After reading Baum + Whiteman's report on food and dining trends for 2012, I have a better idea of the big picture and of what all of us can expect to see when we eat out. Below are a few things from the report that particularly struck me.

~ At inexpensive eateries look for "the whole world on a plate." Remember world's collide on Seinfeld? Unlike the show, hopefully this trend will explode in a good way. 
[D]evil-may-care entrepreneurs are piling flavors from all over the globe onto a single dish. Gastronomically, everything goes. Bite into a sandwich of chipotle pork chop with burnt sugar glaze, carrot kimchee and tarragon mayonnaise, and your taste buds will announce that these flavors came from a global Mixmaster. This is what’s emerging: A multi-ethnic, multi-sensory dining experience where flavors clash on purpose. A multi-culti zucchini pizza dabbed with hummus and topped with crunchy wasabi peas is from nowhere geographically because it is from everywhere. ... Cooking is at a crossroads … where everything collides!
~ Instead of regular bread, we'll be seeing sandwiches a top things far more interesting: arepas, flattened tostones, bao, waffles, and rice cakes. 

I've already seen this trend when I had a shao bing at Fóumami and learned about pupusas at Mi Pueblito Restaurant.

~ Japanese craft beers will gain a following.

~ We'll be seeing lots of "round food that go pop in the mouth." Apparently Korean meatball sliders will keep the slider trend alive. Also look for  Kimchee- and-parmesan-filled arancini, fried goat cheese balls, spherical falafel, bacalao croquettes, crispy oxtail risotto balls, and more. 

~ Comfort food is taking a back seat to more thrilling tastes and creations.

~ Stacking food high will be shifting to "stringing out ingredients in caterpillar-like lines along oblong or rectangular plates." Last night, I noticed this Tweet previewing Maple meringue donuts for Mother's Day. Looks like the trend is here!

~ House-made vegetable and fruit pickles will appear on an increasing number of menus.

~ We'll be seeing more edible flowers on our plates.

~ Some cautionary trends include the misuse of the words artisan, heirloom, local, green, and sustainable. According to this Forbes article, use of the word artisan has already resulted in some legal action.

So these are a few things that we can expect when we go for a meal out. Now what about when we are searching for restaurants online before we go? Sometimes we never find what we are looking for. According to Restaurant Sciences Internet Marketing Study, many restaurants have not made information available for us online.

~ Just over 1 in 8 restaurants have a live blog.

~ Less than 4 in 10 independent restaurants have a menu on their website.

~ Less than 1 in 8 full service restaurant chains and fewer than 1 in 20 independents in the full service segment have a mobile website.

Many smaller restaurants need help getting information out to the public. What are your experiences? Have you noticed a lack of online information?

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SharleneT said…
I'm not sure how I feel about the world on my plate. I'm so tired of not being able to recognize the basic food because of so many heavily-spiced sauces and trappings. But, what I NEVER want to see, again, is the ridiculous fashion on sprinkling the edges of the plate with powders or sauces or anything. It looks like a mess and has never been attractive -- just another fashion. I guess now that everything has bought their tower-making rings, something else had to come down the road. Thanks for sharing. Come visit when you can.
Lisa Johnson said…
sharlene - So funny that you don't like the sauces or powder on the edges of plates. I love them! : )

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