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Innovation tops Technomic’s trends for 2009

CHICAGO Innovation will be among the top five restaurant trends in 2009 as the tough economic environment forces operators to turn up their creativity, Technomic Inc. said Thursday.

Inventive menu items, delivery services, pricing and design — including smaller spaces and more efficient footprints — will help restaurateurs weather a year that could be one of the most difficult in recent memory, according to the Chicago-based consulting and research firm.

Technomic also pointed to the growing importance of regional ethnic cuisines, such as those focusing on specific regions within Mexico and Italy or countries in Asia.

Another significant trend will be local sourcing, the firm predicted, calling local “the magic word” and pointing to a rise in regionalized menu offerings.

Technomic also projected that there would be more variations in sizes, ranging from small plates and bar-menu items to family-style entrées serving two people or more, as well as a push for more catering.

Finally, Technomic predicted that kids’ menus would go more upscale, going “beyond the mac-and-cheese comfort zone” to reflect a restaurant’s identity, such as a crab cake offered on the children’s menu of a seafood restaurant. It also anticipated more specialty beverages and smoothies for kids.

Technomic’s list was in sync with the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot chef survey. That study's top-five list included locally grown produce, mini desserts, organic produce, nutritionally balanced children’s dishes and new/fabricated cuts of meat.

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