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National Restaurant Association - Embrace these 4 consumer trends to appeal to guests

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Embrace these 4 consumer trends to appeal to guests

Restaurant operators came to the NRA Show to explore ideas and products to build great menus. To find new ways to appeal to guests, many attended a session on food and consumer trends by Annika Stensson, research communications director, NRA. Nine of 10 Americans enjoy dining out, and food quality is especially important to them, NRA research shows.

Here’s a look at four of the trendiest menu ideas spotted around the exhibit floor:

Ethnic cuisine

Arepa making at Foodamental Studio.

Stensson offered a sneak peek at new research the NRA is conducting on consumer attitudes toward ethnic cuisine. The new research, set for release this summer, showed that sushi, Thai and Vietnamese food are most commonly eaten at restaurants; Chinese, Ethiopian and Mexican are most common for takeout and delivery.

Three-quarters of consumers say they like when mainstream restaurants serve ethnic cuisine, and 66 percent eat a wider variety of ethnic cuisines now than they did five years ago. Authenticity is important to consumers, but more than half say they often customize ethnic cuisine dishes to fit their individual tastes.

Eco-friendly food

Grass-feed beef and other sustainable meat from Pasture Perfect Premium Grassfed.

Three in five consumers say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers organic or environmentally friendly food. Consumers who make efforts to reduce their carbon footprint in other areas of their lives look to reconcile their food choices into that pattern.

Breakfast anytime

Breakfast sandwich from Stonefire Authentic Flatbreads.

Seven of 10 consumers said they wished restaurants would serve breakfast all day long, the research shows. That sentiment is fairly even among age groups, which indicates diners of all ages might want breakfast for dinner, Stensson said.

Natural ingredients

Ancient grains from Bob's Red Mill.

Local sourcing is one of the hottest umbrella trends on menus – anything from produce to meat to seafood, and the more local the better. Similarly, natural ingredients and minimally processed foods show up in the top five menu trends in the NRA’s annual What’s Hot chef survey. Also playing into the farm-to-table philosophy, consumers are taking a deeper interest in what’s in their food and where it comes from, Stensson says.

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