2013 brought some prominent culinary trends, many of which seem to be here to stay. Health and environmental consciousness drove some of the biggest culinary trends of 2013. The National Restaurant Association predicts that many of these trends will stick around for 2014. As we move into the New Year, it is important for food businesses to reflect on food trends of 2013 and use them as a reference point to improve themselves.
Health-Related Food Trends 2013
This year saw a rise in consumer health concerns that effects food businesses. Healthy eating restaurants had an advantage over fast food chains, in drawing health-conscious customers looking to cut saturated fats, calories, cholesterol, and sodium, from their meals. As a response, fast food chains such as Burger King began offering healthier alternatives such as Burger King’s lower-fat fries. Other restaurants became slightly more like healthy eating restaurants by adapting dishes to better fit consumer health concerns. Restaurants with gluten free menus also experienced a customer-base expansion this year. Not only do restaurants with gluten free menus draw customers who are sensitive to gluten, they also draw regular customers looking for wheat free foods because they believe wheat free foods are better for their overall health. Customers and restaurants showed a concern for environmental health as well as diet health, in food trends of 2013.
Culinary Trends Go Green
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” is off to a shaky start, with website technicalities and low purchase numbers tainting the high hopes the government had for the healthcare plan’s first month. For the most part, the restaurant industry is nervous about the implications of the Affordable Care Act for restaurants, as one of the industries most affected by it. Some restaurant businesses are reevaluating the way they run in order to brace themselves for the financial repercussions predicted as a result of the law, and in an attempt to try keep their restaurant profits as high as possible.
Obamacare Impact on Restaurants
Obamacare will affect restaurants in a few ways. Firstly, the Affordable Care Act requires restaurant nutrition information to be printed on menus for chains that have more than 20 locations, effective six months after the FDA’s rules are finalized. This requires budgeting for new printed menus and menu boards for those not using electronic menus, and possibly
Almost every culture has at least one ethnic food to make them proud. Food nationalism often defines a culinary culture, highlighting ethnic foods that are unique to that region. Recent culinary trends and the globalization of food culture have caused many foreign food items to become popular abroad. However, some regions have a culinary culture that includes strange delicacies that are unlikely to be adopted around the world. Here’s a taste of some different ethnic foods:
This traditional Philippine dish is prepared by burying a fertilized duck or chicken egg for about a week. At that time, the chick has begun to form, but the bones and feathers are only partially developed. The egg is soft-boiled, and the egg and chick are served in the shell and eaten with a spoon.
This Japanese delicacy made of puffer fish does not sound like one of the strange delicacies of the world, right off the bat. However, the organs contain tetrodotoxin, a poison 1,200 times more lethal than cyanide. If the fish is not cut right, by an extremely skilled chef, eating this ethnic food can be fatal. Despite the risk, Fugu is very much a part of the food culture in Japan, though some parts, such as the liver, are illegal to sell. Recently, fish farmers have become raising genetically modified
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Restaurant Tips for the Season
March Madness can cause a raging rise in business for college restaurants, as well as other food businesses, with the right planning. During this period, the NCAA division I basketball tournament between 68 teams takes place. This year, the event will span from March 19 to April 8. The hype, college pride, and American love of sports make this a potentially very profitable period for related businesses. Food businesses fall into this category, providing fans with their college food (or college-style food) accompaniment for the games. These businesses can expect a full house on game nights, making the potential for profits great. A survey by the National Restaurant Association concluded that consumers consider pricing, viewing experience, and menu options, when choosing where to watch the games. Having special promotions is sure to draw customers looking for price specials. March Madness food preferences are similar to those of the Super Bowl. Fans will flock the bar, usually choosing to sip a beer. If the favored team wins the game, a restaurant can expect extra rounds ordered in celebration of the occasion. Watchers will crave college food: fried, laden with fat, and served in large portions. Such dishes can include cheese fries, nachos, burgers, chili dogs, pizza, etc. Customers will be thrilled with the simple classics like a cheesy
What’s all the Hype?
The horsemeat scandal highlights the extremely complex food processing business and its weaknesses. The issue lies less in the fact that horsemeat was being sold, as it is popular in countries such as France, but rather that the widespread mislabeling of the meat lowers consumer trust in the processed food world, and causes them to feel deceived. Without lab testing for food safety, traces of horse DNA may have never be found in meat products labeled as ground beef in Europe. Through all the fuss, it is unclear who is to blame. The complicated system that has developed of passing meat from slaughterhouse, to packaging companies, to companies creating the food products, to the market, has raised questions of the extent of corruption in the food processing system. Was the slaughterhouse the only step in this chain that was privy to the scandal? The scandal goes beyond the simple discomfort of consumer’s lack of knowledge. It is affecting Europe’s system of having a flow of goods and services across national borders. Many consumers are vowing to start preparing beef products from scratch rather than having consumer trust in the large food companies that produce processed
1. Wolfgang Puck
Though the name Wolfgang Puck is now associated with over 70 restaurants, cookbooks, product brands, and catering services, Wolfgang Puck got his start with Spago Restaurant on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, CA. Wolfgang Puck grew up in Austria, where his mother introduced his to cooking. Later on he was a chef apprentice in Monaco and Paris, and moved to the United States at age 24 where he worked at La Tour in Indianapolis before moving to Los Angeles and becoming chef and part-owner at Ma Maison. He published his first cookbook, Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen and soon after opened his first restaurant Spago along with Barbara Lazaroff. Spago has since opened in a few different locations. The Beverly Hills venue is consistently considered one of the top fifty restaurants in the United States. Wolfgang Pucks success and reputation in the culinary arts world shows the infinite possibilities opened up by chef internships and has put him on our list of top California chefs.
2. Alice Waters
Alice Waters not only opened what is considered one of the world’s top 50 best restaurants, she is also an activist for awareness of healthy, organic foods. Though born in New Jersey, her significant career path has taken place mainly in California. Alice Waters completed a French Cultural Studies degree at UC Berkeley. She became involved in the culinary arts while studying abroad in France. During her time abroad, she fell in love with the local produce and fresh ingredients,
While many food documentaries, such as Food, Inc. (see below) show the dark side of the food production business, Fresh shows that there is still hope for sustainable food production. The documentary celebrates healthy, organic food by interviewing rural and urban farmers about their trade. It praises sustainable agriculture and the farm-to-table culinary trend and shows a hopeful view on the challenges facing consumers and food businesses today.
While Fresh shows hope for the smaller-business sector side of food production, Food, Inc. exposes the atrocities that go on behind the scenes at industrial food production sites. It exposes the meat industry, agricultural mass production, and the economic and legal power that major food companies have, and how they are detrimental to consumers and the quality and health standards of the foods they receive. Though the documentary acknowledges the efforts of many companies to offer healthier, organic, sustainable foods, the overall outlook is rather depressing, but provides important background for food-businesses about where their ingredients
About Restaurant Week NYC
Restaurant Week NYC started in 1992 as an event during which restaurants in New York City would offer price fixed menus at a reduced price. Though many other cities have adopted the bi-yearly tradition, Restaurant Week NYC is considered the first event of its kind. The event provides potential customers an option to sample top restaurants in New York City at reduced prices, and provides great restaurant marketing and an increases restaurant business for the venues. The prix fixe menu was originally offered for lunch, though now many restaurants have expanded the sale to all meals, some excluding weekends. This winter, the event was held from January 14 to February 8. The deal consisted of restaurants offering a three course meal at about $25 for lunch and $38 for dinner. Restaurant Week NYC has become one of the most popular times for customers to dine out.
Criticism and Praise for Restaurant Week
Restaurant week in every city presents a great, easy way to increase restaurant business and benefit from easy, far-reaching restaurant marketing. Customers, whom may otherwise be reluctant to dine at a venue due to high prices, may be willing to finally try that restaurant they have been eying, and, if they enjoy the experience, may become regulars. Restaurants tend to build their restaurant week prix fixe menus based on the pricing regulations implemented. Critics of restaurant weeks often claim that some businesses lose profits during the event due to the price regulations. However, with careful budget planning, exemplary, gourmet,
Kitchen surfing is currently a developing idea. Kitchensurfing.com provides a platform for professional and home cooks, from those with Michelin stars to those who specialize in their ethnic childhood favorites, to demonstrate their culinary skills, as personal cooks, on a freelance basis. Though it is currently available only in New York and Berlin, the “chefs for hire” site plans on branching out to more cities in the future. For hosts, the event is sure to be more expensive than dining at a restaurant of similar culinary caliber, but those who do not see this as an issue may be persuaded to dine in more often than eating at restaurants, due to the availability of personal cooks. Personal cooks, together with their hosts, have the freedom to truly cook everything from scratch, which many appreciate in concept, but few are able to do on a regular basis. Kitchen surfing allows cooks an incredible amount of freedom, from what to wear, to how much to involve the guests in the preparations, to what to cook.
The Upside for Chefs of Chefs for Hire
The concept of kitchen surfing can help food businesses and cooks gain publicity. The hosts and their guests will be exposed to the chef or cook’s skills, and if they enjoy their experience, may be interested in dining at a restaurant the cook works at, or hiring a catering company they are associated with. They may also choose to hire chefs multiple times, if left with a good impression, potentially providing an added income for the chef. For chefs and cooks, the profits from being hired as personal cooks can vary depending on their chosen cost of the event, but are usually higher than the typical cook’s hourly wage. By working in an intimate environment, cooks have more freedom to work with a range of specialty or interesting ingredients, and the time to beautifully present the dishes. Most chefs for hire on the kitchen surfing site offer a specific menu or cooking style, but businesses and individuals choosing to adopt a similar concept, have the freedom to offer various options of dishes