Comfort food, fresh ingredients to boost menus

by Staff
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CHICAGO — Comfort food, fresh ingredients, Mediterranean food and storytelling are trends that will influence the food service segment in 2009, according to Mintel Menu Insights.

Mintel said comfort food is often what people crave when they are feeling down, and in the current state of the economy people will look for warm, familiar favorites on the menu in the next year. Restaurants will appeal to this desire by increasing the use of slow-cooking with slow-baked, slow-grilled, braised and poached becoming the preparation methods of choice.

Fresh, natural and pure items are coming onto menus in rapid speed with "fresh" labeling having increased 22% since early 2006.

Even though Mediterranean food is already popular, restaurants will expand their offerings beyond the familiar tapas, gyros and hummus. In fact, menus will begin to connect the country of origin with the food as in the case with Spanish olives, Greek cheese and Middle Eastern yogurt sauce.

In addition, with all of the negative news about the economy and obesity rates, restaurants will try to bring some positive news to the mix by talking about food preparation, health benefits and origin of foods.

"This recession will persist into early 2009 — and potentially much longer — so restaurants need to be ready for customers who feel tired, overwhelmed and tapped out financially," said Maria Caranfa, director of Mintel Menu Insights. "Food service leaders need to find innovative methods, enticing entrees and fun, new preparations to keep people excited about going out to eat."

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