Special Report | April 2010 | By Staff

2010 Chef Survey

QSR asks the industry’s leading culinarians to weigh in on what’s hot and what’s not in menu trends. Their answers may surprise you.

While the old adage says there’s nothing new under the sun, the new decade brings fresh takes on traditional menu items while ethnic, vegan, and local ingredients make farther inroads into the quick-serve culinary scene.

In the fourth annual QSR Chef Survey, the industry’s top kitchen professionals explain what frugal fatigue means for your concept’s menu and what previously popular menu trends have fallen from grace. Some of their answers may surprise you—Is quinoa really the next “it” ingredient? And does bacon deserve to be on the most loved and the most hated list at the same time?—but you can’t find this insight anywhere else.

Click on the questions below to see what our chef panel said.

What are consumers craving in the snack category?

“Signature dipping sauces can add more exotic flavors and make sharing with friends even more fun.”—General Mills Foodservice Culinary Center Chefs

“They want rich and intensely flavorful smaller-sized items such as dessert or appetizer samplers.”—Chris Martone, Executive Chef, Subway

“Consumers want taste, texture, and authenticity.”—Jim Villemaire, Director, Research & Development, FOCUS Brands

“Nori. It’s commonly used in sushi but many are discovering that it is delicious eaten plain.”—Joe Cerniglia, Director, Culinary Innovation, Villa Enterprises

“Consumers want mini meals, snacks like a giant meatball filled with mushroom ragout.”—Susan Edwards, Director, Culinary, Cryovac

How will kids’ meals improve in 2010? What foods will be the most popular for those offerings?

“The First Lady’s childhood obesity push will garner most of the attention for the next few years. It’s a wait-and-see situation. The country will see if the push will actually impact the kids menu.”—Patrick Fox, Chef, Owner, Cava Greens

“It seems only a short matter of time until the standard ‘kiddie menu’ becomes an awkward relic of the past.”—Joe Cerniglia, Director, Culinary Innovation, Villa Enterprises

“Decrease portion sizes.”—Chris Martone, Executive Chef, Subway

“Kids want fun and interesting food that is familiar.”—Carron Harris, Vice President, Product Development, Papa Murphy’s

“Nutrition will be the key in the kids segment. Heavily breaded, fried, and processed foods are becoming less acceptable by the day.”—Jim Villemaire, Director, Research & Development, FOCUS Brands

“We will see a shift from soda and carbonated products as the kids meal option to healthier drink choices.”—Joan Scharff, Executive Director, Brand and Menu Strategy, Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes

What options are there for quick-serve chefs looking to add vegetarian and vegan items to their menus?

“Local, natural, and organic are trends many of us in the segment have struggled with implementing.  Local produce suppliers and growers are a prime source of the items that really speak to our vegetarian and vegan clientele.”—Jim Villemaire, Director, Research & Development, FOCUS Brands

“Carrots are out; fresh-cut jicama is in. No frozen corn allowed and only freshly grilled and shucked corn is served. Drop the ranch dressing and offer a selection of freshly made vinaigrettes.”—Patrick Fox, Chef, Owner, Cava Greens

“Play around with binding ingredients such as transglutaminase. It’s expensive, but the carbohydrates you mix with it are not.”—Susan Edwards, Director, Culinary, Cryovac

“Baked potatoes can become an entrée—especially with the addition of cheese or vegetables.”—General Mills Foodservice Culinary Center Chefs

“Chefs could look at roasted vegetables—they add color, texture, and layers of concentrated flavor.”—Chris Martone, Executive Chef, Subway

“I think sauces and seasonings will play an even larger role in bringing out flavor for dishes that are often perceived by nonvegetarians as boring due to lack of animal proteins.”—Carron Harris, Vice President, Product Development, Papa Murphy’s

How should quick-serve chefs deal with the growing number of consumers with food allergies and intolerances?

“Educate your staff thoroughly on the dangers of food allergies.”—Joe Cerniglia, Director, Culinary Innovation, Villa Enterprises

“The easy solution is wraps made from corn flour and then filled. They are already on trend—and gluten-free.”—Susan Edwards, Director, Culinary, Cryovac

“The ultimate responsibility for communicating food allergies and intolerances lies with the consumer. Operators must focus their efforts on training efforts.”—Patrick Fox, Chef, Owner, Cava Greens

“Avoid cross contamination. Even when a recipe for a dish doesn’t include food allergens, they can sneak in.”—General Mills Foodservice Culinary Center Chefs

“The biggest single service we can provide is knowledge. We need to arm the customer with data on specific ingredients.”—Jim Villemaire, Director, Research & Development, FOCUS Brands

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