2009 Menu Development survey

Thai is “hot,” Mediterranean is popular and local sourcing is the way to go, say the respondents of FSD's 2009 Menu Development Survery.

Even though talking with chefs and foodservice directors in non-commercial operations would suggest that customers are clamoring for Indian cuisine, Thai food remains at the top of the list of “hot” cuisines, according to the results of the 2009 Menu Development survey compiled by FoodService Director.

Twenty-four percent of survey respondents listed Thai as the hottest ethnic cuisine, outside of well-established cuisines such as Mexican, Italian and Chinese. (In last year’s survey, 21% of respondents chose Thai as their hot choice.) Another 14% listed Mediterranean/Greek as the hottest, followed by Indian, with 8%. Other responses included Middle Eastern (6%) and Cuban and Nuevo Latino (4% each).

However, when it comes to which cuisines operators will be adding to their menus, Latino moves to the top of the list. When asked “Which ethnic cuisines do you plan to add in the next 12 months?”, operators indicated their customers were clamoring for cuisines of the Caribbean. Nearly 11% of operators said they would be adding Cuban, Jamaican or Nuevo Latino items to their menus. Ten percent said they would be adding Mediterranean/Greek, and 10% said they would be adding Thai or Pacific Rim items.

Among current menu offerings, Mediterranean/Greek remains most popular, with 46% of operators saying they offer items from this region on their menus compared with 47% last year. Twenty-nine percent said they offer Thai, the same percentage as last year. But Indian cuisine made its way onto more menus, with 29% saying they offer Indian foods, compared with only 23% last year. Other popular ethnic items include Caribbean (28%)  Middle Eastern (23%) and Pacific Rim (22%).

Chefs on board

When it comes to menu development, 48% of survey respondents see the value—and have the budget—to have professionally trained culinarians on staff, with 40% of operators saying they employ an executive chef. Respondents are, however, increasingly hiring chefs with different skill sets. For example, 11% of operators surveyed said they employ a pastry chef, up from 6% last year, 15% said they have a culinary director, up 4 percentage points from last year and 8% said they have a chef de cuisine on staff, compared with 6% last year. More operations have sous chefs as well, with 25% employing the position, an increase from last year’s 22%.

Whether they have professional chefs or not, most operators continue to realize the value of culinary and other menu-related training, and 91% of operators reported providing staff culinary training in one form or another. Perhaps reflective of current economic conditions, however, there has been a shift in where and how training takes place, with more operators choosing  stay-at-home approaches. For example, the percentage of operators sending culinarians to conferences and trade shows dropped 4 percentage points, from 80% to 76%, although the use of off-site institutes and schools increased from 31% to 35%. But by and large, more operators are bringing the training to the staff, in the form of in-house seminars and workshops (72% versus 66% last year), online training (up from 25% to 36%), and visits by culinary professionals (30% this year compared with 25% last year). Chef competitions grew in popularity, with 21% of operators sending chefs to such events, versus 19% last year.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

Industry News & Opinion

High school students in Dallastown Area School District in Dallastown, Pa., will soon see the addition of live prep stations in their cafeteria, as well as an area where they can access food at any time during the school day.

The district has partnered with Chartwells for the revamp, which will allow students to watch their food being prepared and also includes the addition of new menu items, says the York Dispatch .

Chartwells’ mid-Atlantic dietitian, Aliza Stern, believes these changes will be welcomed by students as they become increasingly interested in different types...

FSD Resources