Communal tables, creative cocktailing and hearty "heritage" food will be some of the top hotel food & beverage trends this year, according to a forecast from Marriott Hotels F&B executives Robin Uler, senior vice president of food & beverage, spas and retail services, and Brad Nelson, vice president of culinary and corporate chef for Washington-based Marriott International.
9 TOP TRENDS
- Back to basics and sized to order. Guests are looking for great food served with friendly, professional care in a "buzzing" contemporary environment that offers a "sense of place." Chef-crafted plates of varying sizes create a variety of tastes and flavors, and allow for a more social, casual dining experience than traditional "courses." Also, this allows diners to graze and control their own portions.
- Breakfast is back. Diners are starting the day off with eggs cooked to order, and healthy options that have "good carbs" yet are low in fat and high in both protein and nutrition. French toast, waffles and fancy pancakes are a hit on catering menus.
- In good company. Communal tables continue to grow in popularity, even going the next step to the "gathering area"--F&B arenas that serve as living/dining room areas.
- Kitchen meets bar. With the advent of more premium spirits on the market and the push for evermore creative cocktails, the pairing of food and spirit in one will be on the menu. Look for premium liquors to be paired with freshly squeezed juices and herbs, as in the thyme Cosmo or basil mojito.
- Healthy--not diet--food. Diners are seeking healthy options on menus. Individual preferences and needs vary and trendy diet fads come and go, so menus are reflecting a variety of healthy dining offerings, from low-carb to low-fat to lower calorie, depending on preference.
- Soft, comfortable, hip. The pendulum will start swinging away from the very angular, overly retro or stark look of many dining rooms in favor of a softer and more opulent ambience. Clean, comfortable and contemporary, utilizing funky domes, cut crystal, etc., for service. Gone will be the sparse white plates, replaced by a more elegant but comfortable feel.
- There's always room for ... Strongly flavored gel squares and desserts made with gelatin sheets and fresh purees are popping up on menus. From Chef Gordon Ramsey's Rhubarb Parfait to gel bites that taste like fresh mango, key lime and other exotic fruits to the return of aspic, everyone loves this childhood favorite and can now enjoy the slightly more sophisticated version. Puddings too are making the transition. Flavors like Amaretto Bourbon spiced rice pudding are taking diners back to childhood favorites, but with a more creative twist.
- High on heritage. Foods from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe--cured salmon, goulash, stuffed cabbage and the like--will make an appearance but with a contemporary twist, perhaps with a "new" kind of cabbage or spaetzle. Look for a representation of this type of cuisine with more-modern elements.
- Non-'engineered' product. Diners will be looking for a more "natural" product--not "micro-greens," but buttery Boston lettuce and sweet Bibb varieties. Menu items will be "ingredients-based"--fresh, wholesome and locally grown, as well as foods that are true to the actual product and its roots. Chefs are attuned to using the "whole" product--no waste.
- Try a taste. We taste while shopping in the market, so why not when dining? When visiting an upscale grocery or even bulk foods store, tasting is almost essential, whether it's the fresh fruit, the cheese or an item on sale. Look for chefs to send out samples of signature appetizers and side dishes in small tasting portions, showcasing the chef's style and creativity through a real menu item.