Archive for December, 2008
In a down economy, discretionary restaurant meals are one of the first things to get cut by conservative consumers. Food industry consulting and research firm Technomic sees five trends looming large in 2009, as restaurants try to coax customers to come out and spend:
1. Experimentation and innovation—with new menu items, delivery services and price/bundling schemes.
2. Continuation of ethnic flavors, with a highlight of regional cuisines such as regional Italian and Jalisco-style Mexican fare.
3. “Local” food sourcing and a menu emphasis on the foods of the region.
4. Goldilocks serving sizes: big, little and just right. More small-plate, prix-fixe and bar menus, in addition to more family-style entrées that can feed two or more.
5. Up-scaled and expanded kids’ menus, beyond standard kids’ menu items to items that reflect the restaurant, for instance, a crab cake at a seafood restaurant—along with more specialty beverages and smoothies. (Editor’s Note: Makes good sense to help develop the foodies of tomorrow.)
Hmmm…interesting, but we’re not certain that a kid’s crab cake or delivery service is the hot button when money is one’s chief concern. “Price/bundling schemes,” whatever they are, sound promising. What would make us spend money at restaurants when we think we should exercise restraint are financial incentives. Our suggestions include:
1. The “new menu items” should include more affordable dishes across categories (appetizers, entrees, desserts). There should be some comparatively inexpensive choices in each group. If your goal is to fill seats, this can be done—at least on certain nights of the week.
2. Offer more affordable wines, meaning, more reasonable markups. We’d show up to eat more often and buy wine if we could pay $20 for a $10 retail bottle instead of $35. Paying $12 or $15 for one glass of average wine is like pouring money down the drain.
3. Allow a BYO for a corkage fee on slow nights.
1. Charging for the bread basket. How many people really want that bread, and how much of it gets wasted (or how many of us fill up on it before the food arrives)? No one needs those carbs (or the fat from the butter). Few of us serve a bread basket at home; at the restaurant, it’s a bad-food temptation we don’t need put in front of us. Charging for it is a way for restaurants to save (and earn) money.
2. Serve smaller portions of dessert. Most of those who want a little something sweet at the end of the meal could do with half the calories, carbs and fat of what we’re typically served—that’s why “sharing a dessert” is a standard calorie-cutting recommendation. In addition to earning higher margins from smaller portions, there’s probably a market for a selection of mini-desserts sold to people who would normally decline dessert (similar to selling an “appetizer portion” of a main course).
It’s food for thought!
There’s still time to have Wine Cellar Sorbet at your Christmas dinner—as a palate-cleanser between courses or a light dessert for adults who still want something sweet but have no room for anything else. Yes, the sorbets are for grown-ups: They are 5% alcohol and are distinctly—and delightfully—alcoholic. You need to order by midnight tonight for delivery by 12/24 (or, check the website for a retailer near you).
You can also send this frozen fantasy as a gift. Purchase a gift certificate for a 4, 6 or 12 pack of Wine Cellar Sorbet; the recipient will get an email gift certificate and can have it delivered at the time of his or her choice. (A 6-pack enables him/her to taste all of the flavors.)
The sorbets are made from fine wine—Cabernet Sauvignon, Chanpagne, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Rose and Sangria. Of everything we’ve tasted at THE NIBBLE over the years, Wine Cellar Sorbet remains one of our very favorite foods, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week and winner of THE NIBBLE Outstanding Artisan Award. Even if you don’t have it for Christmas, you should make a point to try it in the New Year. Sorbet also has far fewer calories than ice cream, no fat, no cholesterol. Not that we’re saying it’s health food…
Time Magazine dug into “recession dining” and had six chefs develop dinner for a family of four for $10. Some aren’t brain science, but others are inspired, like Tom Colicchio’s Fennel Pork Loin. The “menu” includes:
* Tom Colicchio’s (Craft Restaurant, NYC) Fennel Pork Loin and Pasta Vegetarienne
* Tyler Florence’s (The Food Network) Roast Chicken With Lemon, Garlic and Fresh Bay Leaves
* David Myers’ (Sona, Los Angeles) Spaghetti With Pancetta and Chili Flakes
* Eric Ripert’s (Le Bernardin, NYC) Rice & Beans, Green Salad and Banana Flambé
* Charlie Palmer’s (Aureole, NYC) Orecchiette Pasta “Risotto” With Pancetta and Goat Cheese
* Suzanne Goin’s (Lucques, Los Angeles) Braised Chicken With Paprika Onions, Cous Couse and Date Relish
Dig in to the Recession Gourmet Recipes.