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Facts & Fiction - Food Truths, Lies & Stories

Here is a look at some emerging dining trends and it’s not what you think.

Thursday, December 17, 2015
Robert J Nyman
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The restaurant industry is alive, well and in most cases prosperous. So around this time of every year the pundits, prognosticators, soothsayers and crystal ball gazers all seem to put forth the upcoming trends for for the new year. Never say never and you won’t be surprised nor disappointed, a wiser statement was never put forth about the restaurant industry.

Hey, someone had to predict that Kale would be the new hot item a few years ago, since we have only used it for decades as a garnish on plates along with a fresh Orange slice. Unfortunately, Oranges aren’t as sexy and only provide us with Vitamin C, so it pales in comparison to leafy green. Sort of the way I feel about some of these know it all’s who think the restaurant industry is still a bunch of bookends of East Coast and West Coast ‘Trend Setters.’

I marvel about trendinistas who somehow think that other parts of the country don’t also count for establishing food likes and trends. Organic, Natural, Farm to Table, Fiery Foods, Experiential, Butchery, Off Beat, Local, etc., are just some of the ‘new trend’ terms that these so called ‘experts in the field’ are predicting.

To the best of my knowledge, New Jersey has been noted for decades in growing Natural Beefsteak Tomatoes, along with Jersey Corn and Farm Picked Strawberries and shared them with many a happy eater. North Carolina is well appreciated for their ‘Goodness Grows’ Farm to Table program that has been copied and replicated around the country by other states. New Mexico is known and respected for their Hatch Chiles, some which can be ‘Fiery’ and used in many different ways. In eastern Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers have for centuries raised and butchered their own Hogs, and chefs from around the country have gone there to learn and buy their products.

From cities like Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, both are known for their ‘off beat & locally’ inspired restaurants, natural and organic ingredients and comfortable surroundings. Las Vegas, ‘Sin City’, has developed the largest array of Asian Restaurants of any other area in the country, yet barely gets a mention in the National Food Press. Oh, lest I forget the pundit who predicted the advent of ‘Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken,’ possibly he has never been to Nashville or heard about Carla Hall either.

Another big ‘trend’ is the Uberization of food delivery. Somehow, maybe some people have not either visited or lived in New York, Chicago or San Francisco, where you can get great restaurant food, along with Chinese, Fried Chicken, etc delivered anyplace day or night—just amazing! Actually, somehow many have forgotten if you live in certain parts of the South or Southwest, they still deliver milk, eggs, etc., to your home door, but then again it’s not an East or a West Coast thing, I guess. We are and always have been a country of consumers who like convenience; why else would we pay some else to stand in line for the next Apple iPhone for us?!?

“If you never tasted the water, how would you know how to drink.”

It’s a whole new world and Baby Boomers are learning the hard facts that their numbers are dwindling, Millennials are taking over this year and Gen X will surpass Boomers by 2028. So the world as many know it, is changing dramatically and will directly affect the way people eat a along with what they expect and anticipate.

Casual Dining is here to stay, whether you live in New York City, Dothan, Alabama or Lacrosse, Wisconsin, although the last two locations mentioned, never knew it wasn’t the norm. Restaurant and Hotel guests all want to have it easier, not be told how to eat, what to like and then have to pay for the privilege. Price points in restaurants are suspect to evolve, when the best known restaurants in today’s news are Chipotle, Shake Shack, Panera and Starbucks; yes they are now considered a restaurant too.

With the given certainty that the minimum wage will rise next year, prices in restaurants are sure to follow and consumers will demand more and better service at the same time. The concept of a fair wage for a good days’ work is still acceptable to most, however the jury is still out on all-inclusive pricing instead of the tipping model, although some folks might have us believe it’s a done deal. There is still a large segment of customers from all parts of the country who value authenticity, sincerity and hospitality, probably some of the hardest things for restaurants to do consistently.

Food is a very tangible commodity, yet service, attitude and appreciation of each other along with the value of the experience can be the most intangible point of today and the future.
Robert Nyman    Robert J Nyman
Nyman Group

Bio: As President of The Nyman Group, Robert J. Nyman steers the company along its course with agility and experience. He began his career in a family-owned liquor store and delicatessen, but really began to “cut his teeth” in the industry with Restaurant Associates, where he served as Director of Operations in the airport division, a position which he held for six ...
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