The leading culinary theme, according to the survey, is sustainability, which is ranked as the third hottest trend overall. Environmentally friendly practices and local sourcing appeal to restaurant operators and consumers for reasons including freshness, minimal transportation and supporting local communities and businesses. Nutrition also ranks high at 15th overall. Healthful options for children, produce, superfruits, bite-size and half portions and food allergy-conscious and gluten-free meals all ranked in the top 20, demonstrating continued consumer interest in nutrition.
Also appearing in the top 20 of 214 culinary items in the survey were mini-desserts, regional ethnic cuisine, non-traditional fish (such as barramundi and Arctic char) and newly fabricated cuts of meat (including Denver steak and pork flat iron). Simplicity as a culinary theme and smaller portions for lower prices are also menu trends for 2010, which demonstrates that consumer preferences have shifted toward value and comfort during the economic downturn.
On the drink menu, locally produced wine and beer is the fifth hottest trend on the "What's Hot in 2010" survey. Other alcohol items in the top 20 chef-rated menu trends include culinary/savory cocktails and artisan liquor.
The NRA surveyed 1,854 ACF members in October 2009, asking them to rate 214 individual food and beverage items, preparation methods and culinary themes divided into categories as a "hot trend," "yesterday's news," or "perennial favorite" on restaurant menus in the coming year. For more information, visit www.restaurant.org or www.acfchefs.org.