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Menu Trends for 2012

I know, I know—this is the fourth 2012 food and beverage trend forecast that we’re featuring here in this blog, and you might really just ask (just as we do) how many more trends can we anticipate this year. We all wonder how many of these will really, in strict actuality, materialize and follow through till the end of the year.

But as industry experts repeatedly say, all we need to do, as spectators and industry players, is just to know these things–try and see which are applicable to our dining market, and allow these trending forecasts to help us reach this year’s bottom line.

We have already featured famed restaurant consultants Andrew Freeman’s and Michael Whiteman’s trend predictions this year, as well as Technomic’s Consumer –Focused Forecasts. Now, we shall take a look at London-based research firm Mintel’s own take on this year’s trends—this time focusing on menu styles. Their menu tracker Menu Insights talk about five of them—double-sided menus, slower food preparation, American regionalism, importing ideas and consumer control.

Double-sided menus. Contrary to what we’ve been psyched to anticipate about the surge of healthful menu items in America, customers this year will want restaurants to come up with food that still centers on indulgence—healthful, yes, but desirable food items that would still allow them to indulge. Mintel’s menu tracker of 350 of the largest chain restaurants and 150 independent restaurants in the country shows that customers are not likely to start going for “absolutely healthy” food when they dine out. They would still prefer to have choices—and restaurants shall give it to them by giving them double-sided offerings on their menus and menu holders.

Slower food preparation. Restaurants, especially fast-food, will spend more time in preparing their dishes this year, seeing that customers prefer dishes that have been given extra care when prepared. Home-style dishes or artisan (aka handmade) food will continue to appear in restaurant menus all over.

American regionalism. At the same speed that consumers get more and more interested in international cuisine, they’re also becoming increasingly curious about regional specialty food—think Memphis barbeque, Low Country grits, New England chowder—the best in each of the country’s regions and cities that defines American cuisine.

Importing ideas. A lot of restaurant chains have been growing in the international scene the past years, and this trend is expected to continue this year. Several product testing and menu concepts are said to take place in their overseas locations, such as McDonald’s recent menu addition, the McBites. McBites started in Australia and was eventually introduced in the U.S. Market.

Consumer control. Customers will continue to expect that restaurant menus and offerings in restaurant menu holders will be more flexible, reflecting their voice and their preferences. Restaurants, in turn, will continue to listen to their diners and make sure that what they want is given, allowing them to gain more control of their dining experience.