Health care and the latest menu trends were the hot topics at the California Restaurant Association’s annual Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, held this week at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
In a standing-room-only session, Los Angeles-area restaurant operators shared their experiences as they work toward compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Bob Spivak — chief executive of Grill Concepts Inc., parent to the Daily Grill and Grill on the Alley chains and a CRA board member — said it’s difficult to gauge the legislation’s impact because it’s unknown how many employees will opt in. While Grill Concepts does not plan to cut hours for existing employees, Spivak said the company will likely look for more part-time workers in the future to stay under the 30-hour cutoff for compliance.
“At the end of the day, it’ll be inflationary and we’ll have to raise prices,” he said.
In another session, Mathew Mandeltort, manager of research and consulting for Technomic Inc., outlined hot menu trends:
• Food trucks: They’re a wonderful “culinary diversion” and a way for chains to extend their brands, he said, “But the folks at McDonald’s are not worried about the invasion of food trucks.”
• Waffles: Quick-service chains from Taco Bell to Jack in the Box are adding waffle-based menu items. Some concepts are focusing on waffles exclusively, like Waffles Chicago, which offers waffle flights in various flavors, and the Bruxië chain in Southern California, which features many types of waffle sandwiches.
• Pretzels: From Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger to Krispy Kreme’s Caramel Pretzel Donut, pretzels are everywhere.
• Mash-up mania: Think Cronuts, ramen burgers and glazed-doughnut sandwiches. “There’s something out there for you, too,” Mandeltort said.
The three-day conference coincided with the Expo Comida Latina, a trade event highlighting Latin food and beverage, which shared the show floor.
Next year, the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo is scheduled for Aug. 17-19 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Contact Lisa Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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