As reported by Restaurant-Hospitality.com, foodservice consulting firm Technomic has weighed in on what they think the 10 biggest food trends for 2013 will be. For some restaurateurs it is important to stay ahead of the game when it comes to food trends, so they will no doubt start shopping to keep up before the New Year begins. Here are those 10 trends, and some of the utensils, equipment, etc. to bear in mind when starting to shop around.
More and more vegetables are becoming the centerpiece of restaurant dishes. As the country grows more health conscious, an influx of “obscure” vegetables are starting to become common place on menus. Root vegetables like beets and jicama, bulb veggies like fennel and bok choy, and gourds like spaghetti and acorn squash have been appearing on menus a lot lately, and this list will no doubt increase drastically in the coming year (as meat prices continue to rise). Vegetable preparation for all dishes requires great cutlery and a proper vegetable peeler, and most operations tend to prep their vegetables with manual (or in some higher volume operations, automatic) vegetable choppers and slicers. Veggie prep tools such as these ensure consistent slices, dices, and other cuts on vegetables so cooks can make their magic on the plate. This consistency is especially important in vegetarian dishes, as there is no protein to draw a customer’s eye. Some kitchens have even begun to experiment with these prep tools; for example, using a French fry cutter on other root vegetables to get specific cuts (like curly Q beets).
As gluten-free menu options become increasingly important and people move away from eating wheat, a number of other grains are starting to replace it on menus. Dishes like polenta (traditionally made from cornmeal) and risotto (a rice dish) have been increasingly popular as entrées and sides, but there are a number of other grains that have asserted themselves as viable menu candidates. Bulgur, quinoa, oats, and a wide variety of rice are just some of the grains beginning to pop up on menus, and some restaurants have even started making pasta and dough from grains other than wheat. These doughs require a quality dough mixer, a pasta sheeter / sheeter attachment (for pasta), dough boxes (for pizza dough), and most other traditional baking essentials. For operations that plan on just preparing those grains, rice cookers or steamers may be the best way to prepare large volumes of grains for cooking (depending on the recipe and volume), and mobile ingredient bins may be the best way to store them.
Chicken Still Holding Strong
Chicken, unlike most other meat, has stayed around the same price, and consumers are starting to see an influx of innovative chicken dishes on menus. Though newly inspired versions of Southern fried chicken are growing in popularity, the versatility of this protein gives chefs far more flexibility as to how it can be prepared. Ethnic chicken dishes have been increasingly popular, and chicken will continue to appear on menus in some way, shape or form. Menu offering such as chicken shawarma will require a gyro broiler, high volume fried chicken operations will require fryers (any fryer that can accommodate large amounts of sediment; usually rack or chicken / fish fryers) and filters to extend the life of oil, and all operations will need proper cutlery. Pieces including cleavers and flexible boning knives make cleaning poultry significantly easier, and are a necessity when prepping large volumes of chicken.
Quick Service is Growing
Restaurants and food purveyors have had to adapt to a customer base that is increasingly in more and more of a hurry. People are sitting down for meals less, and snacking periodically throughout the day more often. To accommodate their needs, there has been an influx of entrepreneurs investing in food trucks and carts. Additionally, brick and mortar restaurants have started offering lunch and snack style portions to keep up with their mobile counterparts. Food trucks and carts providing snacks will require a number of pieces of equipment that can be easily powered on the go (which makes LP one of the most sensible fuels). But possibly the most important tools when creating snack sized portions are measuring utensils and scales, for they help cooks portion the smaller sized menu items accurately.
Value as Volume
Though constantly snacking people are less apt to dine out for casual meals, there has been an increase in group dining. People are eating out collectively more often, and this has led to a spike in multi-course and family style dinner deals. Some restaurants have even started to offer a “Today & Tomorrow” special that allows customers to order an entrée and take another with them to-go. When working with large quantities, items such as food warmers, refrigeration, and storage containers are key to keeping food at the proper conditions before and after cooking. To-go specials like the aforementioned special will require both extra food storage and storage for to-go containers, and any multi-course or family style restaurant will need to ensure they have adequate tableware to meet the needs of their menu.
Diner & Deli Content
Foodies are becoming a bit nostalgic, and the traditional foods found in American diners and delis are becoming popular once again. Brunch is becoming a weekend mainstay at establishments all over the country, and sandwiches are making a come back on the foodie scene. There are a number of larger pieces of equipment prominently featured in producing these pieces of edible Americana, and among them are: a (durable) griddle, high volume coffee brewers, a heavy duty meat / cheese slicer, panini presses, and, of course, a refrigerated deli case for meats, cheeses, or refrigerated desserts such as pie.
The “Asian Fusion” craze has continued to make its presence felt in modern American cuisine, and as a result, noodle shop style dishes have become an up-and-coming craze. Noodle dishes featuring Ramen, soba, rice, and udon noodles are starting to appear all over American cities, even at mobile food trucks and carts. These noodles are made from a number of various grains (opposed to the traditional semolina pasta), including rice and buckwheat, and are traditionally served with any number of vegetables, spices, broths, and meat (though there will almost always be a broth or sauce). For shops that plan on serving any number of these noodles and making them from scratch, the following equipment should be found in your kitchen: a dough mixer, a dough sheeter, a wooden prep table (or a large wooden cutting board), a proper cutting knife (these noodles have a variety of specific cutting tools, such as the Udon kiri or the Soba kiri), a stock pot range or kettle (to bring noodles to temperature), as well as steam wells / soup warmers to keep the accompanying broth heated (for hot dishes).
South American Cuisine
South American cuisine has, as of late, started to come on as a major food trend. Though South American cuisine contains some elements of Mexican, Portuguese, and Spanish cuisine, it is significantly different than all, and is full of indigenous foods and spices like plantains, chimichurri and ceviche. There is tremendous variety in regional South American cuisine, but some of the most common dishes feature grilled meats, which will require a charbroiler, and in some instances, specialty broilers (like a kebab broiler). Cutlery is also incredibly important for dishes like ceviche (which consists of precisely cut pieces of fish and seafood) or preparing traditional Brazilian feijoada, which may require crock pots / soup warmers. You many also need deep fryers to cook higher volumes of Peruvian papa rellena or empanadas.
Fast & Casual Global Cuisine
Street food purveyors have been offering up a wide variety of globally inspired menu items that have been snagging a number of customers from many fast casual establishments. So, as a result, fast casual concepts have been incorporating a number of regional foods that have been trending in the food world. For instance, fast casual Greek and Mediterranean restaurants have been increasingly popular, Mexican fast casual has cemented a foothold in the business (especially chains), and even traditional fast casual restaurants have started to infuse dishes that draw influence from all over the world. Though this can be a great way to expand a menu, it is important to selectively add things that don’t require extensive retooling of a kitchen. Wok ranges, dough sheeters, panini presses, and even smokers (for those incorporating BBQ or Southern influences) are among the list of equipment needed for some regional foods, but it should be noted as to what kitchen adjustments must be made for every added menu item.
Beer & Liquor Pairings with Menus
Some restaurants have found a way to change their menu significantly without even touching the food. The “shot of Jager” customer mentality that has plagued many alcohol purveyors is (very) slowly falling to the wayside. People are starting to take pride in what / where they drink, and are more apt to order top shelf than they used to be. The craft brew trend has continued to grow, along with beer and food pairings, but so has the demand for good wine, spirits, and above all, cocktails. Aside from having an in-house mixologist and / or sommelier, to provide customers with upscale drinks your operation will need: beer dispensing coolers / a draft line, wine tap lines or wine racks and traditional wine utensils (corkscrew, felt ring, etc.), proper glassware (for cocktails, high gravity beers, wine, etc.), and of course a whole host of smallwares including cocktail shakers, citrus zesters, liquor dispensers, and glasswashers.