2005 Menu Development Survey: Dishing it out

Many of the largest organizations in foodservice have revamped, overhauled or otherwise upgraded their menus in recent years.

And for 2005, the study added a section on display cooking. Following are summaries of each area based upon examination of response data.

By cycle: According to the survey, 80% of operators are on a menu cycle, the most common of which lasts four weeks. Previous surveys had suggested some change in this pattern might be on its way, but not much materialized.

Trade shows and conferences are the No.1 source of new ideas in menu concepts, respondents indicate, followed by casual and family restaurants as well as quick-serve concepts—proving that non-commercial operators look as much to the commercial side of the industry for inspiration as they do their peers in education, healthcare and corporate dining.

They also consult chef associations and conduct focus groups.

Ethnic influence: The FSD survey shows that non-commercial operators continue to place heavy emphasis on ethnic menus, as their customer base continues to diversify while seeking newer cuisines and bolder flavors and meal experiences in order to satisfy their increasingly sophisticated palates.

The popularity of ethnic foods remains high in menu development, and authenticity is mandatory. “Guests are requesting the real thing,” says Andrew Lackmann, vice president of Lackmann Food Service. Rick Postiglione, ceo of Compass Group’s B&I sector, adds, “Ethnic cuisine continues to be the menu of choice.”

Mexican and Asian foods continue to dominate the non-commercial ethnic menu landscape, while the Mediterranean/Greek category shows signs of growth—and in some markets, Indian food is making a significant showing. In fact, respondents indicate that Indian tops the list of ethnic cuisines they plan to add this year; there’s also clear influence from the Middle East and rising interest in the Mediterranean/Greek category.

Operators suggest there’s a lot more to ethnic menu implementation than just the decision about what to serve. The top challenges associated with preparing and serving authentic ethnic cuisines are: preparation and staff training; obtaining ingredients and recipes; and costs, both in terms of food and labor.

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