Hottest Foodservice and Hospitality Trends for 2012

Foodservice and hospitality consulting agency Andrew Freeman & Co. offers a slew of trends for 2012

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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San Francisco-based Andrew Freeman & Co. a foodservice and hospitality consulting agency, is one of my favorite trend spotters (many will morph to food manufacturing).

Food and beverage trends include:

  • This Spud's for You – 2012 will be the year of the potato! Watch out for French fry menus that let guests choose the cut, crispness and sauce; make-your-own mashers with mix-ins; or custom cut chips with dusts and dips to order.
  • 31 Hundred Flavors – Everyone loves ice cream, and creative chefs are taking advantage of its blank canvas to entice people to try unfamiliar flavors of all sorts. People are licking up pear, licorice, beet and horseradish. 
  • Melt in Your Hands –Grilled cheese is the new hamburger. Restaurants devote special evenings or entire menus to this childhood favorite loved by kids of all ages.  
  • Use Your Noodle – Noodles are nothing new, but innovative and exciting restaurants are highlighting this ancient art with glorified exhibition style hand-pulled noodles.  
  • Thai the Knot – Exciting, creative takes on modern Thai cuisine are becoming some of the hottest destinations in town as diners become more adventurous and love the evocative flavors. An increasingly savvy clientele will come to appreciate focus on regional Thai variations. 
  • Produce-ing Desserts – Move over carrot cake, cutting edge pastry chefs are turning vegetables into sweet finales. They'll make you eat your veggies with sweet satisfaction.
  • Inspiring Mouths Want to Know – Chefs tell the story behind the dish by paying tribute to their inspiration on menus. Guests love to have the back-story and it builds a personal connection or recommendation --- even when it isn't personal. 
  • Recipes for Success – Hospitality careers are hot! From intensive professional training programs to specialty programs for continuing education and amateur classes for hobbyists, everyone is getting in on the action. According to the National Restaurant Assn., by 2014 the culinary industry will add 1.4 million jobs. The industry has never been hotter. Hot jobs in a cool economy. 
  • Eating Between the Lines – High-class food comes to a fast-casual setting as high-end chefs open fast-casual offshoots using premium ingredients in dressed-down settings. At the same time, fast-casual restaurants dress up the experience with more formal plateware and service. 
  • Chaat Rooms – Indian street foods (such as flatbreads) will gain popularity as fans flock to food trucks, pop-ups and quick-service restaurants selling fast, fresh, spicy Indian fare. Look for Kati Rolls, Puri with sauces and condiments or "Pav" sandwiches with spiced vegetables. 
  • Breakfast Club – Breakfast is the new dinner. Everyone loves brunch and breakfast foods. Restaurants are reinterpreting breakfast for lunch, dinner and late night menus. Waffle sandwiches, savory turnovers, eggs in any manner of ways, pigs in a blanket, hollandaise-topped sandwiches and French toast or bread pudding served either sweet or savory.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Specialty chili peppers are heating things up. Middle Eastern Aleppo Pepper, African Piri Piri or the incendiary Indian Ghost Pepper are spicing up menus near and far. 
  • Healthy Indulgences – Health-conscious diners will be satisfied with more nutritious meals and drinks that offer real appeal. Expect signature, whole-grain salads and sides, a selection of plates available in smaller sizes, menu items that appeal to particular dietary needs and high-fructose-free sodas. 
  • Turn Over a New Leaf – Chefs pine-ing for new flavors will use subtle infusions of pine needles, Douglas fir and eucalyptus to flavor sauces, rubs, meats, jus and broths. Explore a forest of flavor. 
  • Tableaux Settings – Artistic chefs are creating edible landscapes that represent where the food actually came from. Oysters served on a rock, mushrooms in a forest of edible "moss," it's food as art and nature extended. 
  • Liquid Diet – What was "foam" or "dirt" is now liquid, as chefs and cocktail experts are distilling all the flavors of a complex, integrated dish into liquid form. Alcohol may or may not be included. 
  • Let it Snow – First there was shaved ice, now there is shaved ice cream as Snow Ice comes to America. Offering the flavor and creaminess of ice cream with unbelievably light texture, Snow Ice is sure to please -- lightly.
  • Go Hungary – Everyone is Russian to go Hungary with Eastern European food moving into the main stream. Czech your reservations because this trend has a great Prague-nosis.

Drink trends

  • Tap Dancing – First it was cask aged cocktails, pre-measured mixed drinks were barrel aged for added nuance. Now mixed drinks are available on tap; barrel or not. 
  • It Was a Fine, Fine Beer – Vintage beers are coming of age. Offering intrigue and a taste of the past with higher alcohol beers meant to age. 
  • Double Hitter – Bars are pitching double-hitters with offers of a cocktail or shot and a beer to chase it with. Call it a one-two shot. 
  • Drinks with Drive – The food truck craze has extended to drinks as cocktail trucks are taking to the streets and spirits brands seek to build recognition. 
  • On Solid Ground – Everyone from bartenders, artists, and pastry chefs will break the mold and reinvent cocktails in solid form. Frozen beverages translate to sorbet and popsicles while artistically layered boozy jellies give Jell-O another shot. 
  • Ounce Upon a Time – Serious spirits enthusiasts and avid wine drinkers will pay for an opportunity to taste luxury beverages beyond their means --- one ounce at a time. Pay to play. 
  • Fram-Booze-le – Breweries are adding fruit to beers of all types. This new fruit juice adds a little hop to your step. 
  • Sip Tease – Mini cocktails offered as an amuse "wet" the appetite before the drinks and meal to come. We'll drink to that!

Ingredient Trends

  • Stroop There it Is! – The Dutch dessert (a dark treacle syrup)
  • In the Schnitz – Shnitzle sandwiches (or Milanese) 
  • Yuzu Sexy – Yuzu Kosho (a Japanese spice) 
  • Issan-ometric Exercise - Isaan sausage 
  • ‘Mallow Out Dude – Home-made flavored marshmallows in exotic flavors 
  • Lovely Bones – Marrow bones, rib bones, ham bones, bone soup 
  • Duck and Goose Eggs 
  • Wurst Case Scenario – Currywurst 
  • Lamb Belly up! - Lamb belly 
  • Show Me Some Skin – Crispy pig skin, chicken skin, fish skin 
  • Gnoc-chi Ingredient - Parisian gnocchi 
  • Date-ing Game – Date syrups and glazes on meats and in drinks

Drink Ingredient Trends

  • Catcher in the Rye – Rye Whiskey
  • Baby got Zwack! - Herbal liqueur made in Hungary with a secret blend of more than 40 different herbs and spices 
  • Big Bare Hug – Honey liquor 
  • Bitter Lemon Truth – Bitter lemon soda
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