New York City -- Mintel, a leading global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence, has identified five trends that will shape how restaurant operators appeal to their customers in 2012.
“Our trends are based on original consumer research, developments among restaurants and trends observed in other industries,” said Eric Giandelone, foodservice director at Mintel. “Our goal with these trend predictions isn't merely to identify what's going to happen, but to deliver a roadmap on how to take advantage of these trends."
The trends include:
- American regionalism: Consumers are not only more aware of global cuisine, they are also more aware and interested in the regional specialties that define American cuisine. Whether it's Kansas City or Memphis barbecue, New England Chowder or Low Country grits, more consumers and restaurants are looking at the regions and cities in the United States to identify the "Best of" cuisine.
- Double-sided menus: Menus will continue to feature widely indulgent options, but will be balanced with healthier, better for you options. Additionally, this goes beyond healthy and indulgent to include premium and value pricing. Operators understand it's not either or, it's both, so we'll continue to see both high priced and low priced options on the same menu.
- Consumer control: Consumers expect that their voice will be heard and that their wants and needs will be met. And the surest way to listen to the customer and ensure their needs are met is to give them the ability to control their dining experience. Customized ordering systems will continue to flourish, as will greater flexibility in menu design.
- Slow it down: Quick service restaurants are able to drive margins through their standardized efficiencies, but more and more we are seeing fast food restaurants return to more time-intensive preparation methods. As such, items described as "handmade" or "home style" are popping up on restaurant menus as consumers recognize that they want more from their dining experience than efficiency.
- Importing ideas: For many restaurant chains, growth lies elsewhere, in international markets. And for those companies already with an international presence, menu concepts and product testing is taking place overseas. From there, good ideas are making their way to the U.S. market, as was the case with McDonald's recent McBites, which first started in Australia before entering the US market. Given the importance of international markets for growth, this is one trend that will continue to growth beyond this year.