Top restaurant trends for 2009

The internationally revered New York-based restaurant consultants, Joseph Baum and Michael Whiteman Co., recently released their restaurant trend forecast for 2009.

And it would seem that theres one prevailing message: as the global economic meltdown is dictating some serious changes in the hospitality industry, costly frills are out and extravagant indulgence is considered bad manners. Tough times are definitely here…

The bistros are coming

According to Baum Whiteman, menus that list first courses costing more than last year’s main courses; wine lists that carry mostly triple-digit wines, and waiters in expensive branded clothing – as can often be found in extravagant city restaurants and high-end hotels – are all indicators of tough economic times that are already upon us. This is because high-end eateries are lagging economic indicators:  establishments that usually take so long to be designed and built that fluctuating economic circumstances often catch them completely off guard.

Once aspiring to sparkle opulently, steeped in luxuries, these establishments will all become part of the cyclical “bistro-fication” of restaurants.

Micro-greens or macaroni and cheese?

As menus are downscaled and dining rooms “bistro-fied” the days of imported foie gras and truffles, or exotic seafood with micro-herbs, are over for the foreseeable future. Old standbys such as macaroni and cheese will make a comeback, as well as Asian noodle dishes such as pad thai, or Italian pastas like rigatoni carbonara – offering the same level of comfort without the palate fatigue. The biggest comeback, however, will be spaghetti and meat balls with interesting twists and creative interpretations of the meatball recipe prevailing.

Asian noodles in broth will also be more prominent on menus, and lesser known varieties such as pho from Vietnam, ramen from Japan and laksa from Southeast Asia will gain prominence.

Breakfast, breakfast, lunch and dinner

Baum Whiteman predicts that traditional, eggy breakfast dishes will become the new comfort food being served at all hours of the day.

Offal and odd bits

Already an emerging trend, this year will see menus offering even more offal and odd bits. Pigs cheeks, tripe, tongue, neck meat and beef cheeks will be some of the more unusual cuts making an appearance. Oxtail, artisan salamis and cured meats remain popular, while chicken livers will take the place of costly foie gras.

Small plates and sharing

Fixed price menus will be unbundled, offering diners the option to order a la carte to suit their palate and pocket. Restaurants will also be more inclined to allowing shared meals, and an upsurge will be experienced in small plate meals and tapas-style dishes. Over-priced wines and luxury cocktails will lose popularity.

Black-market restaurants

One-night-only unlicensed dinner ventures staged by skilled cooks and professionals in warehouses, cellars and vacant nightclubs will prove a popular alternative to conventional restaurant dining.


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