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Asian, Latin and Mediterranean have dominated the "ethnic" category on menus for at least a decade. Now, Datassential's data analysis of U.S. Chains and Independents in 2012 revealed that niche ingredients and flavors within these big three are emerging.
Panera landed the honor of favorite sandwich chain in America, according to a consumer survey conducted in August by Market Force Information. The survey polled more than 7,600 people and looked at 14 sandwich/wrap chains. A voting system was used, which accounted for chain size and customer visits, to narrow down the top picks to Panera, Jason’s Deli, McAlister’s Deli, Firehouse Subs, Quiznos, Jimmy Johns and Subway.  
Potatoes, seafood and almonds are three commodities that are key players on restaurant menus. Drought, high feed prices and other factors have wreaked havoc on several staple foods in the supply chain this year. How are these three commodities trending as we move into 2013 and how can they enhance the menu?   Potatoes
The star ratings on consumer-generated websites, such as Yelp! and Chowhound, carry a lot of weight, according to a survey by the Dining Decision Ecosystem. The survey, conducted with 500 participants, found that after a friend’s recommendation, the Internet holds the biggest influence with patrons deciding where to eat.
New Yorkers still fill restaurants, but they are spending less and choosing cheaper places to dine, according to the 2012 Zagat Restaurant Survey.  The survey, which polled 44,306 New Yorkers, found that new restaurant openings are catering to shrinking wallets in the Big Apple. Some highlights of the Survey:
Visits to limited service restaurants (LSRs), which entice the thrifty and time-crunched patron, are up nine points since last year, according to recent data published in Technomic's American Express MarketBriefing. The good news leaves us wondering, what will keep these patrons coming back? The report provided these important insights into what customers want:
Today's restaurant diners are an experimentation-heavy group, and they're contributing to the relentless growth of craft beer in the US, with 350 new breweries having opened since June 2011. According to a recent Consumer Edge Insight study, Alcoholic Beverage DemandTracker, providing more craft beer options to your diners makes them more likely to order beer, and more of it. Especially if they are already a regular craft beer drinker.
Call it the “drinking man’s diet.” This year, more patrons are visiting restaurants just to order beverages, according to a new report by The NPD Group. While customers are cutting back on their food ordering throughout the day, they’re finding more opportunities to drink.
Restaurant dinner checks may be shrinking, along with patrons’ wallets, but morning people are putting their money where there mouths are. According to The Breakfast Consumer Trend Report published by Technomic, convenience is motivating consumers to trade at-home breakfast occasions for away-from-home purchases.
Communal tables and shareable small plates may have spawned the social dining trend, but today’s customers want more. Gen Y—aka the Millennials—are leading the charge. And they spend a lot more of their disposable income on dining out than other generations.
Americans are still making time for the traditional three meals a day, but they are supplementing with more snacks. According to the NPD Group's National Eating Trends report, meals are getting smaller as snacking continues rise.
When it comes to finishing off a meal with something sweet, most restaurants offer a menu of familiar favorites. But within those favorites, pastry chefs and dessert pros allow themselves to get a bit adventurous.