Trend Tracker

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Catering continues to be big business for restaurants; as a group, they capture almost five times the revenue of retailers for off-site events—$19.3 billion annually versus $4.0 billion, reports Technomic’s recent Parties Off Premise study.
Americans still rely heavily on foodservice for lunch, according to Technomic’s Lunch Consumer Trend Report.  Although diners have cut back on away-from-home lunch purchases to save money, a good number still buy midday meals—particularly at fast-casual concepts.
On-premise wine drinkers traded down from bottles to glasses in 2012, according to GuestMetrics, which tracks over 250 million checks from restaurants and bars across the U.S. In addition, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon—longtime favorite varietals—lost some ground to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
While mothers continue to trump sweethearts when it comes to the most popular holiday to dine out, one-quarter of Americans will be sitting in restaurants on February 14, according to research from the National Restaurant Association (NRA). As Valentine's Day falls on a Thursday this year, the annual reservation survey from OpenTable also shows diners will be celebrating love well into the weekend. Results from both sources revealed a number of different dining trends and habits operators can use to sweeten the holiday for everyone. According to the NRA:
Restaurant chains that serve more lower-calorie foods and beverages have better business performance, according to a new study by Hudson Institute. Over five years, chains that increased the amount of lower-calorie options they served had better sales growth, larger increases in customer traffic and stronger gains in total food and beverage servings than chains whose servings of lower-calorie options declined.
Each year, the National Restaurant Association surveys over 1,800 chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation to get their top trend predictions. The forecast looks bright for cheese, as reported in the NRA’s “What’s Hot 2013 Chef Survey.”
In the breakfast daypart, operators are responding to consumers’ demands for bold flavors, healthful fare and portability. In its report “The Breakfast Club: An Update on Morning Meal Trends,” Datassential unveils the top five fastest-growing breakfast items as yogurt, frittatas, oatmeal, burritos, and huevos rancheros. These trends, according to the report, reflect widespread sub-trends impacting the industry, especially at QSRs and mid-scale establishments.
When trendologists compiled their forecasts for 2013, several reports mentioned fermentation—and sour flavors in general—as tops for the coming year. Here's how they're showing up on menus.
Adult beverages at the bar are growing in dollars and volume despite the rocky economic environment, notes Technomic in its 2012 Bar TAB (Trends in Adult Beverage) report. And creative non-alcoholic drinks are also on the rise, according to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2013 Chef Survey.
Healthier choices, more local produce and rising menu prices are just a few of the trends restaurants are expecting to see in 2013, according to, a site that offers discounts to diners. The popular site recently polled 106 fast-casual, QSR and full-service restaurants across the country to find out what’s on operators’ radar in 2013. What the survey revealed:
Brown spirits nudged out white spirits in on-premise consumption during 2012, according to Guest Metrics’ most recent POS data from restaurants and bars. The Leesburg, VA-based market research company reports that whiskey, bourbon and Scotch all saw an increase in market share in the first three quarters of 2012, while vodka’s market share plummeted.      Here is a closer look at some of the market share gains and losses as calculated in basis points during the first three quarters of 2012:
Abundant during the winter months, citrus fruits invigorate food and drink menus during the chilly weather. The endless variety includes limes, lemons, tangerines, navel oranges, red grapefruit, and all the hybrid offspring, from the highly anticipated Meyer lemon to tangelos and pomelos.