MenuDirections attendees tour restaurant trends

Keynote speaker Gerry Ludwig shares his four culinary trends.

Published in FSD Update

By 
Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content

Keynoter Gerry Ludwig took attendees of MenuDirections on a virtual culinary tour Monday, recounting the new directions he spotted while visiting 92 trend-shaping restaurants in three cities during a stretch of 17 business days.

His sampling of 1,131 dishes a few weeks before the conference prompted the Gordon Food Service corporate consulting chef to advise the audience of non-commercial operators to consider four trends rapidly unfolding within the commercial sector:

Meatless sandwiches. “I was surprised by the number of restaurants that were serving wonderful, complexly layered meatless sandwiches,” he told a packed ballroom. He cited such examples as a spicy beet sandwich he was served at a New York City hotspot called Dime.

He noted that several of the vegetarian sandwiches he sampled were flavored with strongly flavored cheese, which he characterized as “barnyard-y” because of their rich aroma.

Quinoa as the main attraction. The ancient grain is hardly unfamiliar to the non-commercial market, but “it has reached ubiquity in commercial foodservice,” Ludwig remarked.

He cited the example of Protein Bar, a 19-unit chain concentrated in the Midwest. Among its signatures is a quinoa-based burrito, or what it calls a Bar-rito. “They really caught lightning in a bottle,” he said.

Ludwig noted how he’d seen multiple instances of quinoa transformed into pancakes, meatless burgers and a hot cereal option. “Quinoa oatmeal has tons of opportunities,” he said. “It has much more flavor than oat-based oatmeal.”

He cited an instance where a sandwich bun rather than what was inside the bread had been made from quinoa.

“Having it all and living well.” A new generation of restaurants is proving that healthful dining doesn’t have to come at the expense of flavor, consistency or high culinary art. He cited the example of LYFE Kitchen, which offers flavorful, carefully crafted menu items through a variety of menus. An “E” model is intended for customers who eat everything. A “V” is intended for vegetarians, a “GF” for gluten free and a “BW” for beer and wine drinkers.

Over-the-top indulgence. “Every once in awhile, you need to do this in your units, what we call ‘ingenious indulgence,’” Ludwig advised. He did not provide an exact definition of the term, but cited the illustration of Donut Fiend in New York City. The off-beat shop specializes in doughnuts, both sweet and savory, that are cut in half and garnished with everything from jellies and other smears to more conventional sandwich ingredients.

Ludwig said the two dishes he enjoyed the most on his annual 1,000-plus-meal dining tour were a breakfast pudding bowl made with puréed almond milk and banana, studded with “a lot” of chia seeds; and an acai bowl, made with an acai berry purée that was stored in a freezer not cold enough to chill it into a solid. The pudding-like purée was spooned into a bowl and topped with fresh herbs and complements, providing visual appeal along with standout nutrition.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

Ideas and Innovation
business pamphlet fair show

As we struggle to recruit and retain millennials, we had our current millennial employees invite friends who don’t work for our organization to a Q&A session where we find out why our organization is or isn’t appealing to them, and what they are looking for in an employer. I recommend doing this off-site in a casual environment so you can get honest and open feedback that could be useful for better marketing.

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

FSD Resources