Restaurants will return to quality over $5 food gimmicks in 2010, according to Mintel Menu Insights, a service that tracks U.S. menu trends. That service recently leased releases five predictions for 2010, saying the restaurant industry will focus on high quality food and ingredients to lure in diners.
 
Redefining the concept of value is key to moving ahead in the current recession. The following five menu trends will serve that purpose, according to Mintel:
 
Classically simple
 
In 2010, Mintel Menu Insights predicts chefs will harness the power of classic combinations and simple, pure ingredients. So far in 2009, the top new menu item for chain restaurants is an all-American classic: the burger. Look for more nostalgic, decadent pleasures on the menu: bacon, lobster, classic cocktails, milk and cookies and donut hole desserts.
 
Restaurant-grown
 
Just because people don't have time to cook doesn't mean they don't crave homemade food. Next year, watch chefs add an "in-house" touch where they can: artisan breads and cheeses, house-infused spirits, locally sourced produce and meats. "Rustic" will be the buzzword that describes imperfectly shaped pizza crusts and mashed potatoes. Restaurant-grown items are also a great way for restaurants to differentiate themselves.
 
Dining out … in
 
"If you build it, they will come" isn't working quite the way it used to. Half of Americans are spending less at restaurants because of the economy, so it's time for restaurants to come to them. Burger King is one of the latest to sell its food (French fries) in retail stores, but expect more retail-restaurant connections in 2010. Additionally, more restaurants will uphold relationships with customers by using iPhone apps for menu changes and online ordering.
 
Inherent health
 
Nearly nine in 10 Americans think eating healthy is important, but 63 percent say it's difficult at restaurants because there aren't enough healthy items. It's time for that to change: 2009 saw a trend toward healthier menus, but 2010 will see a sharp increase in good-for-you food and drink. Tomorrow's healthy menus will feature inherently nutritious items — those with fiber, omega-3, vitamins and antioxidants — that deliver on flavor too.
 
Regional ethnic
 
In this great melting pot, it's no wonder people love ethnic food. In July, four in five adults told Mintel they'd eaten ethnic food at a restaurant in the past month. Cuisines like Mexican, Chinese and Italian have become so mainstream, however, that it's time to dig deeper. Restaurants will increasingly pinpoint specific regions — Tuscany, Brazil, Morocco, or even within the United States, such as North Carolina BBQ — to develop tomorrow's ethnic food.

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