Industry experts forecast 2012 trends
Nation’s Restaurant News asked some of the industry’s top trend-watchers to discuss what they expect in the year ahead. Here are their top predictions:
Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, research, National Restaurant Association
There’s no economic rebound to prosperity, but it will continue to be a better environment than it was in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Restaurants will benefit from pent-up demand. Two out of five American adults said in a recent survey that they are not using restaurants as often as they would like. Even modest employment growth should boost confidence and cash on hand, encouraging consumers to return to restaurants.
Food costs will remain a huge challenge, with wholesale food price inflation running at 8 percent — the highest it’s been in three decades. Operators won’t be able to pass on high input costs on a one-to-one basis, so the focus will remain on driving out costs while hopefully growing sales.
Darren Tristano, executive vice president, Technomic Inc.
Consumers hesitant to spend want twists on the familiar, such as comfort foods with gourmet, ethnic artisanal or wood-fired flare, and innovative sandwiches, wraps, pizza and pasta.
Commodity costs will drive rustic fare made in-house as operators stop buying value-added items in favor of cheaper cuts, beans, grains and produce that require more back-of-house prep to make into honest, home-style food.
Seasonal and local sourcing will continue to grow, driven by a less-is-more culinary trend and the need for a more transparent and efficient supply chain.