Just as they did a century ago, hotel restaurants have a mantle to uphold by striving to be culinary leaders in their respective locales. To do so in today’s competitive foodservice landscape, however, requires constant ingenuity.
Everyone knows about the big push to offer healthier options, incorporate any purported superfoods and raise the profile of local producers through farm-to-table programs. Much like nearly every other customer who will set food in your eatery, I would expect that your team already have those three well in hand.
Below are five more to consider as the New Year dawns upon us. Besides my own firsthand observations, constant reading and listening to colleagues’ anecdotal remarks, I’ve also recruited Mintel Group Ltd.’s latest intelligence reports on global food and drink trends for 2018 (http://www.mintel.com/menu-insights) to help compile and lend some extra veracity to these top trends.
- Allergies Abound. Fully in swing with the proliferation of individuals with various food sensitivities, every restaurant must first and foremost oblige these customers with total ingredient transparency. That means indicating everything used for the menu and more detailed buffet signage. Whether or not you decide to adjust your menu to appease those with allergies is secondary to this. But know that this has implications for other common trends like vegan (no animal products), gluten-free (no bread) or paleo dieting (think cauliflower-based faux-rice or faux-mash potatoes) where more and more such alternative options are influencing where people choose to eat. This is also a particular challenge for banqueting where the more components you have on a dish translates to the greater potential for substitution requests and a bottleneck in the kitchen.
- Reducing Food Waste. Not only is food waste a leading environmental hazard but it adds up to a lofty expense for any provider. The good news is that sustainability programs and advisors are readily available to help set up something that’s feasible for your situation and that can save you money. For starters, you must become more conscious about using every part of an ingredient – the whole plant or all the trimmings from a cut of meat. Indeed, with a bit of research and experimentation, such ‘recycling’ can result in some very delicious and alluring creations. Two others that are no-brainers are composting and building a partnership to donate leftovers to a nearby food bank.
- Boozy Brunch. Brunch is big these days. Meanwhile, sparkling wine sales have seen a sharp year-over-year uptick and this isn’t because people have substantially more to celebrate. Champagne, prosecco and others in this fizzy class are becoming more widely accepted as everyday drinkers, and not just as beverages for special occasions. This is not to say that sparkling wine is the only base that you can use for any sort of breakfast or brunch cocktail, but it’s a good start as the Bellini and mimosa are two of the most popular drinks for the pre-noon crowd. So, if you offer a dedicated brunch service then you should also challenge your team to come up with some enticing beverages to complement the menu.
- Seasonal Specificity. The word ‘seasonal’ should imply local, but it should also go a step further by giving your menu a ‘limited time only’ appeal. Next, the term ‘specificity’ should give you a hint as to how you can best market your seasonal offerings – by drilling down to the exact cultivar of a vegetable or the subspecies variety that you used for a given dish. This not only suggests exclusivity and increased value, but it also educates the customers in the just the right way. Along these lines, words like ‘heirloom’ and ‘heritage’ carry a lot of weight, even with issues surrounding consistent sourcing. While seasonal specificity works best when it’s married to local produce (think cheeses made nearby that are only available around Christmas time), it can also be applied to just about anything that’s in limited supply for a set annual duration. While seasonal menus are quite popular, they nonetheless require significantly more maintenance as you must work out the sourcing logistics and your chefs must be willing to more frequently change what’s offered in the first place.
- Popular Food, New Twist. As an extension of the point about reducing food waste and being more conscious of your ingredients, the concept here is to add a bit of the unknown to your dishes while still operating within an acceptable framework. For instance, beets are already trending, but few restaurants are utilizing beet root greens for salads or sides, which is taking the process one tiny step further. Similarly, you might opt to use fennel pollen instead of just fennel or substitute honey for royal jelly. Also, worth consideration are infused syrups or house-made specialty sauces that take what’s already palatable but with just a hint of the unknown. While the possibilities in this regard aren’t anywhere close to endless, you can still make a big splash by being just a tad different.