Food Trends

February 1, 2012: Cooking Up a Fortune

If you look back over past TrendCasts, you’ll notice I cover food fairly frequently. That’s because there’s always a hot food concept in America. I just finished writing my hot business and trends book for 2012, and the food category is a good mix of old favorites making a comeback (burgers) or hanging on to their claim to fame (cupcakes), and new products (hard cider).

If you already own a restaurant, or are thinking about starting one, pay attention to these trends:

  • Ethnic food has been hot for years. Depending on the year, a different specific ethnic food rises to the top of the “what’s in” list. This year Andrew Freeman, principal of food consulting and public relations firm Andrew Freeman & Co., predicts Indian food “is going mainstream.”
  • Freeman also says potatoes are in, but customers want to “build” their own. So “have-it-your-way” potatoes are the way to go. Think about offering menu items like make-your-own mashed potatoes with customized mix-ins; fries where you can choose the cut, degree of crispness and dipping sauce; and chips with custom “dustings” and dips.
  • Customers are demanding breakfast for lunch and dinner as well. Some restaurants are offering breakfast menus all day; others are reinterpreting breakfast foods for dinner with items like sandwiches made of waffles, egg dishes or French toast bread puddings.
  • Think tiny. Food trends analyst Nancy Kruse told Nation’s Restaurant News the “miniaturization”¬†(or mini-bites) of food is a growing trend. This includes small plate¬†offerings, snacks and downsized portions options.
  • When I was a kid, every Sunday my father ate pickled herring for breakfast. It looked and smelled disgusting to me, but what do I know? The New York Times reports that this “delicacy” once loved only by Jews and Norwegians-herring-is becoming surprisingly popular. (Enjoy-but I’ll pass on this one.)