Report outlines paradigm shifts in consumer taste
The Next Idea, a premier restaurant consulting firm, has defined the 2010 culinary landscape as particularly in contrast to restaurants' MOs for the past three decades. 
"The (heretofore popular) brands in question (and we all know whom we are talking about) focused on costs and marketing, but generally reneged on product innovation," the report, "Forecasted Next Ideas for 2010," said. "Many purchased pre-made food."
But a combination of factors, including health concerns, environmentalism and sheer boredom, have pushed consumers to transition into a new phase of consumer "postmodernism." This combines key elements of our modern outlooks with re-emerging traditional components. The greatest of that latter element is honesty, which The Next Idea said has been "rediscovered." It follows, according to the report, that today's consumer will demand five core themes from restaurants: authenticity, lack of pretense, real opinions, relativism, and do-it-yourself (though a close second is witnessing someone "do it," or cook, for you).
We have already started to see some of these ideas take hold. Neapolitan pizza, the kind hailing from Naples, made with extra virgin olive oil, premium toppings, and baked traditionally in an uberhot wood ovens, is all the rage. The real opinions people rely on increasingly can be seen on Yelp, Facebook and even restaurant-oriented tools like Empathica's GoRecommend, which helps funnel restaurants' positive reviews back out to prospective eaters.
Lack of pretense places the emphasis back on value and simple good taste; the food truck phenomenon and rising popularity of street food speaks to this.  Do-it-yourself gives artisanal food makers and small-time farmers a leg up — and the same to restaurants who use them.
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Having defined the solid ground of restaurantgoers' mandates, the company predicted a few emerging trends for 2010, including:
  • Single estate food: Wine, chocolate, coffee, mozzarella; the more a retailer can pinpoint the origin of a food, the more popular it should be.
  • Eating in: "Not great news for restaurants," the report says. But if you mimic the homey, homespun nature of a meal at home — and close to the price point — it's a win-win for everyone.
  • The underground restaurant movement: "Look for more restaurateurs to set up shop in unlicensed premises like warehouses, apartments, or even urban garages." It's trendy and makes for cheaper overhead.
  • Tea: "Look for tea to take over as the hip drink of choice for the Twitterati," the report said.
  • Regional coffee retailers: Contributing to a restaurant's credibility is the sourcing of its products. This could play especially well with pizzerias that can push a premium after dinner espresso.

To read the rest of the report, visit the company's Web site.

*Flickr photo by UrbanMechanic

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