|WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2005 - As the New Year closes in, diners from all
tiers of the restaurant market will be looking for the next hot item in
the culinary world. Robin Uler, senior vice president of food & beverage,
spas and retail services, and Brad Nelson, vice president of culinary and
corporate chef for Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE: MAR), give their
forecast for what's up and coming on the dining front in the coming year.
Uler and Nelson are responsible for identifying and implementing culinary
trends for 2,700 hotels in many of the world's greatest cities.
Robin Uler and Brad Nelson's Top Food Trends for 2006
|1. Back to Basics and Sized to Order
Gone are the days of starched collars, jackets and ties, and three-hour
dining experiences. Guests are looking for great food served with
friendly, professional care in a “buzzing” contemporary environment that
offers a “sense of place.” Menus will reflect this as well. Chef-crafted
plates of varying sizes create a variety of tastes and flavors, and allow
for a more social, casual dining experience than traditional “courses.”
Also, this allows diners to “graze” and determine portion control.
|2. Breakfast is Back
The "most important meal of the day" is becoming even more important.
Approachable comfort food, eggs cooked to order, and healthy options with
"good carbs," low in fat and high in protein and nutrition are starting
diners' days. French toast and waffles are a growing trend. Big,
fluffy buttermilk, blueberry and apple streusel pancakes, sweet and savory
waffles, and flavorful French toast are being seen more and more in restaurants
and catering. New takes on breakfast basics, such as the Lemon Souffle
Pancakes that are found at the restaurants of Renaissance hotels, are becoming
more and more popular.
|3. In Good Company
Communal tables have become a staple in many contemporary restaurants.
But that will be taken a step further with the advent of "gathering areas."
Many food and beverage arenas will be the new living room/dining room.
Enclaves for small groups and quick quality snacks and beverages will be
making their way into the hospitality industry. These will be community
gathering places as well as havens for harried travelers.
Takeout service at full-service restaurants and related venues is growing,
as the combination of stress and lack of time, but with a sense of wanting
the best, is leading the market's drive for more upscale foods that can
be quickly delivered or purchased and consumed on the run. Many upscale
markets offer this already, but this will expand into the restaurant realm.
Note that restaurants will be sure to have items available to go that adapt
well to traveling.
|5. From the Kitchen to the Bar
With the advent of more and more premium spirits on the market and
the push for evermore creative cocktails, the pairing of food and spirit
in one will be on the menu. It is now as important for the bartender
to be a trained "mixologist" as it is for culinary professionals in the
kitchen to be trained chefs. From the appetizer paired with a special
cocktail to tea- and truffle-flavored vodkas, food and drink will be a
bar and restaurant menu highlight. Look for premium liquors to be
paired with freshly squeezed juices and herbs, as in the thyme Cosmo or
|6. Healthy Food ... Not Diet Food
As Americans becomes more aware of nutrition combined with waistline
watching, diners are seeking healthy options on menus. Individual
preferences and needs vary and trendy diet fads come and go, so menus are
reflecting a variety of healthy dining offerings, from low-carb to low-fat
to lower calorie, depending on preference. At full-service Marriott
hotels, for example, a "Fit for You" program allows diners to select a
healthy meal based on their preference, whether it be low- carb, low-cholesterol
|7. Soft, Comfortable, Hip
The pendulum will start swinging away from the very angular, overly
retro or stark look of many restaurants in favor of the softer and more
opulent ambience. Clean, not Victorian, but comfortable and contemporary,
utilizing funky domes, cut crystal, etc. for service. Gone will be the
sparse white plates, replaced by a more elegant but comfortable feel.
|8. There's Always Room For ...
Highly flavored gel squares and desserts made with gelatin sheets and
fresh purees are popping up on tables. From Chef Gordon Ramsey's
Rhubarb Parfait to gel bites that taste like fresh mango, key lime and
other exotic fruits to the return of aspic, it's okay to admit we all love
this childhood favorite and can now enjoy the slightly more sophisticated
version. Puddings too are making the transition. Flavors like Amaretto
Bourbon spiced rice pudding are taking diners back to childhood favorites
-- but with a more creative twist.
|9. Heritage -- Boomers Are Beginning to Remember ...
Foods from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe -- cured salmon, goulash,
stuffed cabbage and the like will make an appearance but with a contemporary
twist, perhaps with a 'new' kind of cabbage or Spaetzle. Look for a representation
of this type of cuisine with a more modern element.
|10. Non-"Engineered" Product
More and more diners are looking for purity of product. The "micro-
green" ... well, not so much. Diners will be looking
for a more 'natural' product, like buttery Boston lettuce and sweet bib
varieties. Menu items will be "ingredients-based." Fresh, wholesome
and locally grown. Foods that are true to the actual product and
true to its roots. Many chefs are utilizing their local farmers,
purchasing product grown practically in their own back yards. Some,
like Melissa Kelly of Primo in Tucson, Ariz.; Rockland, Maine; and Orlando
Fla., cultivate their own gardens on the restaurant grounds and are attuned
to utilizing the "whole" product -- no waste.
|11. So Long Amuse-Bouches!
We taste while shopping in the market, so why not when dining?
When visiting an upscale grocery or even bulk foods store, tasting is almost
essential, whether it's the fresh fruit, the cheese or an item on sale.
Look for chefs to send out samples of signature appetizers and side dishes
in small tasting portions, showcasing the chef's style and creativity through
a real menu item.
As senior vice president of food & beverage, spa and retail at Marriott
International for more than 10 years, Uler's insights regarding everything
from restaurant menus and design to cocktails and snacks have been closely
followed by colleagues in the industry and enjoyed by millions of guests.
Nelson, vice president of culinary and corporate chef for Marriott International,
has been in the industry for close to 30 years, serving in both independent
and hotel restaurants.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC. is a leading lodging company with more
than 2,700 lodging properties in the United States and 65 other countries