What Will Be The Next Big Thing In Food?
Part of the adventure in traveling for work or play is in finding unique places to eat. The same holds true when you're near home; while certain meals are sort of perfunctory and a cold-cut sandwich will do, sometimes you just have to have something a little more meaningful.
Fortunately, food is an evolving industry and there's no limit to how many new things can be found. Tracking restaurant and food trends can give you a heads-up on what might be out there as you hit the road in search of sustenance. Here's a look at a few of these and their prospects for sustainability.
Making Local Points A Focal Point...
Some years back, a burst of microbreweries materialized to a wonderfully foamy reception. High-end spirits such as small-batch whiskey and bourbon followed close behind, with similar enthusiastic greetings.
Now the trend is rapidly spreading into foods as well. This isn't just a matter of independent restaurants with owner-chefs. It's also about local sourcing of inputs, a step that is more complex with food than with alcohol. Even a simple menu in one of these bistros could require dozens of ingredients, and the industry momentum is to source as many of these inputs locally as is possible.
The combination of local ownership of restaurants that are buying inputs locally isn't just trendy, it's very popular economically among consumers who understand the value of turning dollars over in a local network rather than siphoning profits to a national conglomerate. For this reason, local foods are likely here to stay.
...But Maintaining A Global View
Ever-greater travel and culinary exchange is fueling a trend toward more international influence on restaurants. American establishments are drawing from new sites around the world such as Africa and southeast Asia. These specialty operations are drawing good crowds and good profits.
The two X-factors in the sustainability of world foods are currency exchange rates and geopolitical situations. When the US dollar is strong, imports are cheaper and these exotic inputs will be more affordable. When it's weak, the cost will rise. A sustained period of soft dollars could be enough to spike menu prices enough to do real damage, especially given the overall negative impact on the economy that is likely to tag along.
The other question is whether source nations will remain trade-friendly or even be stable enough for trade. Certainly the upheaval of the Arab Spring led to uncertainty about trade with those nations; a similar wave of change in an area like Central America could prove destructive to Latin-dependent eateries.
Better Eating For Kids
The old formula was simple, when it came to cooking for kids. Fry it, salt it, send a dessert along, and include a toy. Recently there has been no shortage of uproar about whether it is wise or even ethical to feed kids this way.
Many restaurants are bucking this trend. While the overall healthy eating movement has spawned chains and individual restaurants with better menus for everyone, existing facilities are hearing the clamoring as well. Fast food is even reducing french fry serving sizes and finding ways to include fruit.
Will it last? That's a safe bet. Everyone from the First Lady to pediatricians and sports coaches is concerned about childhood obesity and nutrition, so if these notoriously finicky eaters can latch onto things that appeal to them, the trend will be set for life.
The underlying question in all food trends is when it stops being a trend and when it simply assimilates, taco-like, into the American food lexicon. Given what's afoot in food today, that appears to be the case with these three trends.
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