What are this year's menu trends?

Operators are asked to tell what they believe will be driving non-commercial menus.

Next month, FoodService Director will delve deeply into menus with its second annual "Recipe Issue." We'll be asking operators to share with us such things as recipes from home, signature seasonings and Southeast Asian specialties. 

Our cover story will include what a variety of directors, managers and chefs feel are going to be the defining foods trends for their markets. I have spent more than a week talking with operators to learn what their customers will be expecting from their menus. Will vegetarian grow in stature? How much are local and seasonal items going to be defining menus? What will be the "hot" protein gracing the center of the plate?

What I've discovered is that trends in non-commercial foodservice are determined almost as much by such items as pricing, government regulation, administrative fiat and market segment as they are by customer desires. Operators who want to emulate the popular chain restaurants as a way to boost business are, often as not, constrained by forces they can't control and must obey.

I've also found that one man's meat is anothert man's poisson, if you'll pardon the play on the French word for fish. In other words, trends can be a pretty broad term when you're looking at diverse market segments, and the list can be long indeed. So I'll narrow it down to the strongest contenders, the ones that most operators can seem to agree upon.

In the meantime, as you wait for the February issue to arrive, you might want to consider what you think will be the key menu trends in your market. As you do, might I ask a favor? Jot down your thoughts and share them with me at pking@cspnet.com. Tell me what will drive your menus this year and why. I'll compile reader comments into an online-only article that we will run after the "Recipe Issue" is published.

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