Menu Innovations

Coffee drinks, salads top list of 2006 foodservice trends

CHICAGO -- Restaurant operators, and the food companies supplying products to them, are constantly on the look-out for menu innovations and emerging menu trends.

In its annual review of restaurant menus, Technomic Information Services found that last year's level of innovation exceeded prior reports, key among them: updated beverage menus and salad varieties.

Many new, unique preparations and ingredients appeared in numerous menu categories, said Bernadette McGuane, senior product manager of Technomic. Because the Menu Clips [image-nocss] Annual Review compiles 12 months of extensive menu tracking efforts, McGuane also noted that aggregating that much menu activity into one report really brings these trends to the surface.

Among the broader findings reported:

Beverage menus exhibited heightened activity. For many chains, particularly limited-service operators, these efforts centered on improving their coffee service, primarily to stem competition from chains such as Starbucks and various quick-casual concepts. However, there were also an increasing number of shakes and ice-cream based treats, providing many new, indulgent dessert-like options. Salads remained one of the most innovative meal parts on operators' menus, addressing both consumer interest in new ethnic flavors, as well as demands for interesting, healthier eating options. Numerous examples of this trend appear in both limited- and full-service operations. Side order innovations, typically led by full-service chains, were actually outpaced by limited-service operators last year. Many of these items reflect these outlets' efforts to build check averages and increase snacking occasions.

The Menu Clips Annual Review includes detailed reporting on all major menu categories, as well as related operator news, preparation and presentation trends, featured ingredients and international influences. The review also reports on limited-time offerings, providing additional insights on operators' efforts to test new and interesting menu items.

Chicago-based Technomic Information Services has been tracking the foodservice industry for more than 35 years, providing industry intelligence, forecasts, data and training support to manufacturers, operators and distributors and others allied to the field.

Technomic Inc. provides food and foodservice clients with the research, insights and strategic consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include category and channel analyses, customer satisfaction studies, opportunity assessments, benchmarking programs and brand equity enhancement.

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