TREND WHISPERER – A blog by Sherri Scheck-Merrill
I am married to a Chef and have developed and marketed products for another Chef you may know – Wolfgang Puck. My birth father developed two household food brands, Jimmy Dean Sausage and Sunny Delight, which 35 years later still occupy space in grocery stores while my dad spent 3 decades with Gallo Wine. I have friends who have built restaurant empires and business associates who have launched products including one that is a best seller worldwide!
So why would I begin this week’s trend report sharing a page from my personal Food & Beverage network? Because these are a few of my sources who consistently and generously pass along “insider” trend tips in support of the Trend Whisperer! And in the spirit of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I am very thankful for their support, and in some cases, relations.
Lets take a look at their latest contributions as they relate to F&B trends, which by the way, are sky high on the 2014 trend charts.
TREND 1: FASHIONABLE FOOD
A growing number of retail stores are back in development mode building their own brand-themed restaurants inside of their flagship stores. Whether the adoption of a “restaurant inside a store” is borrowed from the success of Tommy Bahama, the Cafés at Nordstrom or a few Ralph Lauren Boutiques, several retailers are following suit.
Cult-fave Urban Outfitters, luxury big box Saks Fifth Avenue and the classically safe-phenom, Brooks Brothers are all in the midst of unveiling their own unique dining concepts. The key attraction to this trend is relatively simple as it’s the amount of time shoppers spend in a given store when a restaurant outlet is incorporated. Simply said, it equates to additional purchases.
A retail leasing executive recently shared an impressive fact supporting the value of this trend. He stated the Tommy Bahama store and restaurant combos are enjoying an increase of 2.5 times the profit per square foot than the units who haven’t followed suit.
TREND 2: THE REAL DEAL
Another case and point type of trend is consumers wanting the assurance that what they’re eating is real—and in every sense of the word.
Menu developers are describing items far more thoroughly, listing not only the ingredients but where they are from, along with how the item was prepared. Certainly, “local sourcing” is more important than ever, however beyond that, authenticity is going to be crucial in 2014.
TREND 3: GOODBYE FOOD COURT. HELLO FOOD HALL!
Expect to see upscale “food halls” taking over from where food courts left off. These halls market artisanal food from local, name-brand restaurants that may be a little pricey, but are always unique and deliver that feel-good rush of supporting something local.
Leading the trend is the over-whelming success of the 50,000 square foot “Eataly”, located in New York City, which I have no doubt has sent developers into think-tank mode to create and unveil their own spin of a “Food Hall!”
TREND 4: SOLO CUISINE RESTAURANTS
If you’ve got a good thing, why not make a restaurant out of it?
The trend of focusing on one item, (similar to Noodle Houses), will continue at a faster than ever pace in 2014. Take for example the Ramen Burger, Cro-nut, (half croissant-half donut), and Meatballs. All are singular-cuisine dining-hits in New York, with restaurants devoted to and focused on a solo offering
Others I’ve spotted are The Hummus Place, The Baked Potato Shop and The Macaron Cafe.
TREND 5: WELCOME BACK STARCH
Starches are staging a comeback—from ramen to buckwheat noodles to pasta made with unusual ingredients. Rice bowls, (and jasmine, basmati and brown rice), will all be big because of the continued fascination with Asian fare as well as the association of “healthfulness.”
Look for more in the way of flatbreads, wraps and all kinds of artisan breads.
Waffles as a base or side make traditional savory items like chicken seem edgy.
TREND 6: FASTER PLEASE!
“Fast-casual” has hit a hiccup thanks to customers specifying every ingredient in their salad, burrito or sandwich and slowing down the service line. This has sent Operators in every segment out to find better ways to use technology for faster and more accurate ordering.
I predict iPad and iPhone orders placed tableside will spring up more than ever in 2014 and rumor has it diners may even be encouraged to bring-your-own-device as an option to expedite order placing. Count me in!
TREND 7: HAUTE DIGGITY DOG
The out of control build-your-own-quality-nurger trend is showing no signs of slowing down in 2014, in fact its immeasurable level of popularity has ricocheted over to its step-sister as a satellite trend.
Yes, hot dogs are making a comeback and this time they are not the all-American delight enjoyed at ballparks or Costco. Trending extraordinarily are double smoked dogs, blended with pork and beef which are topped with exotics such as truffle mayo and caramelized lettuce!
Some are even pairing the new fascination with trendy craft beers or shots of whiskey! Whether served in fine-dining restaurants or outside via a “classic cart,” the adult dog is finding it’s way back.
A RELATED F&B SIDE NOTE FOR TRAVEL WARRIORS, STUDENTS AND MILITARY PERSONNEL
Cooking while on the road is difficult, but some have turned to a hotel coffee pot, (“if” it has a decanter), as a solution!
A trend derived from soldiers in Afghanistan complaining about bad food and being equipped with just-a-coffeemaker, started steaming, poaching and grilling food using the coffeemaker’s basket, pot and burner!
The technique caught the eye of a publisher who was fascinated with this unusual cooking technique, as well as others that have been floating around. As a result, next year the recipes – including mac ‘n cheese, short ribs and chicken soup – will be published for the rest of the world to enjoy.
No matter how you slice it, with so many new and exciting options to experience, I have no doubt 2014 is going to be a delicious year!
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Sherri Scheck-Merrill is a hospitality industry professional with a passion for excellent hotels and resorts. She is passionate about hotels, interior design, fashion, and beauty. As Vice President of Amenity Services Inc., she focuses on hotel business development and guestroom product design. She distinguishes herself by researching, teaching and reporting U.S. trends for her own fashion and export business.
She is a three-time nominee for Businesswoman of the Year by California’s Orange County Business Journal. A UNLV student-athlete/Harvard Executive Education Consumer Marketing graduate, she licenses popular retail brands for hotel guestrooms.
After spending several years on a tennis court, followed by the role of head buyer at the largest West Coast-based sporting goods and fashion apparel export company, her knack for predicting trends landed her a columnist position at Orange Coast Magazine. She is also the author of the biannual trend-forecasting report for a major retailer in Osaka, Japan, and writes a popular blog about trends for Hotels – the magazine of the worldwide hotel industry.