What is in this article?:
- Bret Thorn, Nancy Kruse look back on 2012 culinary trends
- Carrying 2012's R&D creativity into 2013
In a monthly series, menu trend analyst Nancy Kruse and NRN senior food editor Bret Thorn debate current trends in the restaurant industry. This installment is also part of the 2012: Year in Review series from Nation's Restaurant News, which recaps notable news from the restaurant industry over the past year.
Carrying 2012's R&D creativity into 2013
The following is Kruse Company president Nancy Kruse's response to NRN senior food editor Bret Thorn's look back on food trends in 2012.
You’re a better man than I am, Bret. Not only do you make predictions, but you actually own up to them later on. I, on the other hand, tend to avoid such prognostications, which makes me just about the only consultant in captivity who can make that claim. But you’re right: Year’s end is a good time to consider how things have fared in the industry and to think a little bit about what the next twelve months will bring. On that subject, rather than make predictions, I’d like to make some wishes for the next year.
I wish that all operators, whether chain or independent, who work so damn hard in a tough, competitive environment, realize the fruits of their labors. They bring a great deal of joy, as well as sustenance, to their customers, and our lives would all be immeasurably poorer without them.
I wish continued creativity to the wonderful R&D chefs who made 2012 a fantastic food year and rocked my world with:
• Chickens and eggs. Who would have believed that would top the charts in totally unexpected new products like Burger King’s Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, Wienerschnitzel’s Der Chicken Dippers or McDonald’s Bone-In Mighty Wings?
Even better was the long overdue restoration of the egg to its rightful starring status atop cool items like Carbonara Flatbread at Del Frisco’s Grille, Pitfire Pizza’s Greens, Egg & Ham Pizza and The Poacher Salad at First Watch.
• Powerhouse proteins. As the better-burger boom enters its fifth year, it would be easy for chefs simply to coast when it comes to beef innovation. How wonderful, then, to see nifty items like LongHorn’s new Rancher’s Sirloin with smoky bacon, Bordelaise sauce and, yes, a poached egg, or the Chianti BBQ Steak at Romano’s Macaroni Grill served with a side of prosciutto mac and cheese.
Pork promoters moved way beyond bacon with some innovations of their own. Smith & Wollensky’s stepped outside the box with Cracklin’ Pork Shank smartly turned out with creamy sauerkraut and spicy applesauce, while California Pizza Kitchen finished the year by testing a Korean BBQ Pizza with pork loin and spicy kimchi salad.
• Super sides. Side dishes at long last shook off their image as culinary also-rans thanks to tasty touches like the ginger and lime in T.G.I. Friday’s cole slaw, curried rice with mango chutney at Souplantation or jalapeño corn grits at Marlow’s Tavern in Atlanta.
On the subject of corn, no development was more delightful than the appearance on independent-restaurant menus around the country of elote, Mexican-style corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise and white cheese and finished with chile powder. On the chain side, T.G.I. Friday’s weighed in with a summertime variation: Chipotle-Roasted Corn on the Cob.
I wish all the luck in the world to the entrepreneurs and young chefs who’ve set their sights on making it big in the restaurant business in 2013. We need their ideas, and we need their enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see what they cook up.
Speaking of which, I am enthusiastically looking forward to cooking up more of these digital dialogues with you, Bret. So here’s to a happy new year, and may all your predictions come true.
Contact Bret Thorn at email@example.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary
Nancy Kruse, president of the Kruse Company, is a menu trends analyst based in Atlanta and a regular contributor to Nation’s Restaurant News. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.