Hotel Online  Special Report


 Where Dining Is Headed: Five Trends
Uncomplicated, Straight from the Garden & Sea, 
Inexpensive, Exploding with Flavor
The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, October 2005 - Benchmark Hospitality International, which manages 28 award-winning hotels, resorts, and conference centers throughout the United States and in Asia, has announced Five Top Dining Trends for the Future, as observed by its properties.
Trend #1 Build Your Own Meal!

Today's consumers are educated in the kitchen and discerning in the restaurant.  This is sparking a hot new trend toward customer freedom while dining out -- building their own entrées.  Discriminating guests are getting involved with assembling and accenting their own entrée plate at restaurants, suggesting alternative side dishes and more. 

Forward-thinking chefs welcome this consumer involvement, offering a menu of suggested pairings, letting the customer decide what will best please the palate.  And customers are loving it!

Trend #2 Excellent Cuisine for just $20

An excellent meal doesn't have to cost a king's ransom, or a month's grocery budget!  Restaurants and bars are taking giant leaps towards more affordable yet wonderfully creative menus, sometimes featuring lesser expensive cuts of meat exquisitely seasoned, prepared and accented.

Top restaurants on both coasts are taking the lead and holding prices to around $20 per entrée, making up the difference in volume and creative cooking techniques.  Brisket, clod steak, bottom round, duck - which is inexpensive but expressive, and seafood such as squid, bay scallops, clams and mussels are being featured at highly affordable prices.

Trend #3 Less Formal.  A Lot More Fun.

Ever been to a tuna sandwich tasting, or had shots of clear soup varietals using seasonal ingredients?  Believe it or not, this is a strong trend that may have its roots in classic caviar tastings when small samplings of Osetra, Sevruga and Beluga were commonplace at first-rate Russian restaurants, back in the day.

Today, mini sandwiches featuring Albacore with seaweed salad, a miniature tuna burger and cured Ahi with cucumber relish can be a delicious and fun luncheon experience.  Or shot glasses of potato leek soup, shiitake mushroom and consomme with simple croutons -- a trio tasting - is becoming as popular as a cocktail service with martini varieties, Bloody Mary expressions and short whiskey tastings --  all in threes and fours.

The idea is variety to increase interest in flavors and make the dining experience fun, less formal.

Trend #4 Mundane "Snacks" Now Homemade & Fabulous

Homemade or "house made."  Authentic French Bistros, Italian Trattorias, German Bierhauses and American Pubs are all creating their own simple yet delicious "snacks" to help guests take the edge off while ordering and kicking back before dinner.  

Customers, having officially discarded their Atkins diets, are snatching these up and requesting more.  Even mundane popcorn is now spiked with highly fragrant truffle oil, offering a gourmet flavor (yes, popcorn!); potato chips are given panache by adding roasted garlic and other stimulating seasonings; and common oyster crackers are transformed with fresh herbs like thyme, oregano and rosemary that truly elevate the snack to a high level of taste.  

Trend #5 Fresh & Uncomplicated

The freshest ingredients are coupled with simple, uncomplicated preparations.  This trend is so hot that many chefs have redesigned their kitchen, bringing it out to their guests.  In these exhibition kitchens guests can select the freshest ingredients - in some cases straight from the chef's own kitchen garden.

With seafood, they select fresh from the daily catch:  shrimp, clams, lobsters, whole eviscerated fish, and more.  Hot cauldrons stand by simmering with herbs, citrus and mirepoix.  The chef plunges requested ingredients into the flavorful Court Bouillon followed by the selected daily catch and then serves with seasoned drawn butters and plenty of lemons.  

A feast for the eyes and the body - fresh from the ocean, right out of the kitchen garden and onto the plate with no masked flavors or long production techniques.

And One More - Zinfandel is Back!

Today there's a Zinfandel to go with just about every dish.  Depending on the growing region and style of a particular winery, Zins can range from lighter, fruitier wines to some with wildly robust, lingering flavors.  

That's the beauty of this grape.  There's a wine for everyone -- Zinfandel Rose, Zinfandel Port and a Sparkling White Zin that's wonderfully refreshing.  

With more people willing to experiment today, Zinfandel is once again being considered to accompany seafood, steak, game -- or dessert.  Zinfandel Port, composed of fruit from four different vines, is an amazing accompaniment to chocolate selections, especially those with raspberries or blackberries.

Benchmark Hospitality International, an independent hospitality management company based in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, operates resorts, conference centers and hotels both domestically and internationally. For locations of Benchmark Hospitality properties and for additional information, visit Benchmark's Website at


Benchmark Hospitality International
The Woodlands (Houston), Texas

Ken Ellens
Ken Ellens Communications
201-758-2864-Phone  /201-758-2865-Fax

Also See: Benchmark Hospitality's Top Dining Trends for the Future, as Observed by its Properties / September 2004
Benchmark's Top Ten Meeting Industry Trends for 2005 / January 2005

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