DALLAS Restaurant menu developers and marketing executives gathered this week to learn about emerging food trends and consumer analysis at Nation's Restaurant News' inaugural Menu Trends & Directions conference here.
Close to 150 people attended the two-day conference, which was produced in partnership with Technomic Inc. and The Kruse Co.
Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Co. and an NRN culinary columnist, gave a State of the Plate presentation, in which she noted that the most active and innovative menu categories have been appetizers and desserts. She also predicted that "French comfort classics" would be the next important ethnic food trend.
Food scientist Shirley O. Corriher offered tips to chefs about how to make dishes more healthful without sacrificing flavor. Her advice: Cut back but don't completely cut out salt, and find ways to lower fat content while maintaining enough to carry flavor.
Top research and development executives from Denny’s, La Madeleine, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and McAlister’s Deli discussed their recipes for surviving the financial tsunami and shared their predictions for what types of dishes will lure diners back once the economy recovers.
“The idea of value was a marketing slogan” a few years ago, said Phil Costner, chief operation officer of La Madeleine. “The difference today is value is a necessity.”
Trend experts from Technomic, the Chicago-based research and consulting firm, reported on consumer trends that impact diners buying decisions. And they specifically focused on sandwiches, burgers, snacks and desserts.
Premier sponsors of the Menu Trends & Directions conference were Bush’s Best, Icelandic USA Inc., NatureSeal, Phillips Gourmet, Sweet Street Desserts and Ventura Foods, LLC.
Australian Lamb, Brill, California Milk Advisory Board, Idaho Potato Commission and Surlean Foods were supporting sponsors.