Heading into 2011, the top three operational trends will be mobile food trucks and pop-up restaurants, restaurants with gardens, and social media marketing, according to a National Restaurant Association Survey of more than 1,500 professional chefs that are members of the American Culinary Federation. Key menu trends for 2011, according to the study, include local and hyper-local sourcing, healthy children's meals, sustainable seafood, and gluten-free cuisine.
The top 10 menu trends for next year will be locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, sustainability as a culinary theme, nutritious kids' dishes, hyper-local items, children's nutrition as a culinary theme, sustainable seafood, gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items, back-to-basics cuisine and farm-branded ingredients.
"The top trends identified by these culinary professionals for 2011 are reflecting larger societal trends, underscoring that American diners are becoming more and more interested in what's on their plate. Sustainability and nutrition are becoming key themes in our nation's nearly one million restaurants," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association.
Several other top menu trends for 2011 include smaller portions for a smaller price, nutrition as a culinary theme, culinary cocktails and newly fabricated cuts of meat.
Nutrition – children's nutrition in particular – is another umbrella trend identified by the survey. Nutritionally balanced children's dishes ranks among the hottest trends on menus next year, while kid's nutrition as a culinary theme comes in at number six. Gluten-free and food allergy-conscious items are number eight in the trends survey, with nearly eight in 10 chefs agreeing it's a hot trend. Nutrition and health as a general culinary theme is number 15.
On the drink menu, micro-distilled spirits is the top item, with nearly three-quarters of the chefs ranking it as a hot trend. Other alcohol items high on the list include locally produced beer and wine, culinary cocktails, food-beer pairings and beer dinners.
Topping categories within the survey are: street food-inspired items and amuse bouche/bite-size hors d'oeuvre in appetizers; black-forbidden rice and quinoa in sides/starches; ethnic-inspired and traditional ethnic items in breakfast/brunch; house-made ice cream and bite-size items in desserts; regional and fusion in ethnic cuisines; artisan cheeses and ethnic cheeses in ingredients; sousvide and braising in preparation methods; and specialty iced tea and organic coffee in nonalcoholic beverages.