NRA: Menu trends beckon return to simpler times

May 20, 2015
NRA: Menu trends beckon return to simpler times

For those of us who want to return to "the good old days," that time is here, at least in the world of restaurant trends, according to mega-trends analyst Nancy Kruse in her "Menus 2015: Turning Trends into Moneymakers" session at NRA 2015.

Real, clean, authentic: those are 2015's menu buzz words, said Kruse, president of Atlanta-based The Kruse Co. Real, clean and authentic involves a return to quality: "Millennials are counting quality, not calories," she said. Margarine is out, butter is in; factories are out, farms are in; and while sugar is the new "dietary demon," "bone marrow is the new black."

Oldies, but goodies

Diners, millennials in particular, now demand fresh and authentic from the farm to the table. It's all about the three Ps: product, preparation and presentation. Along with the return of butter also comes lard and a new found love for duck fat and schmaltz. And the presentation of such foods must equally match in authenticity, according to Kruse. Consumers are "into" Mason Jars, cast iron skillets, open kitchens, and a return of the classic butcher shop.

History is one way to prove the "realness" of food, as seen in ads for products such as Arby's Smokehouse Brisket, "smoked for at least 13 hours in a pit smoker in Texas." The word "smokehouse" brings to mind imagery of one man standing in front of a smoke pit singlehandedly flipping just a few beef patties at a time – an image that destroys the notions of "fast food," "processed" and "factory-based."

We're also seeing the return of broth as a food that evokes a sense of well-being and health. From Panera's addition of broth to its menu to restaurants in New York that specialize in broth-based food, the trend aligns with larger trends toward healthy and clean living.

Brick ovens and blisters on pizza dough are also in, because "Blisters are authentic," Kruse said. Gone are the days of operators working to make each pizza with a smooth crust and uniform style.

Something new

Millennials may be driving trends toward better food, but both Generation X and Baby Boomers are sold on the drive toward real, clean and authentic. "These are not fads; these are trends," Kruse emphasized.

With a return to the past, the American palate has evolved in its quest for quality.

"The American consumer in the mainstream has never eaten things like tripe, tongue, tendon or marrow."

Along with bone marrow, American consumers have developed a taste for truffles, ghost peppers and duck, lamb and fig. Fig growers hope the food becomes as common as the apple to American households, Kruse said.

"It does speak to the broadening of the American palate and how much more adventurous diners have become," Kruse said.

Buzz words

Words to watch for in developing menu trends include clean, authentic, fresh, real, natural, organic, hormone-, steroid- and antibiotic-free, pure, unprocessed, non-GMO, local, sustainable, whole and words related to humanely raised animals and fair labor practices, according to Kruse.

Topics: Trends / Statistics

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