National Restaurant Trends
Meeting and event planners looking for dining facilities to add to their business itineraries are faced with two key factors: budget and client satisfaction. Several restaurant insiders have put together their own lists of 2009 restaurant trends and from their expertise, we’ve formed our own perspective as to which dining shakeups are most crucial to the business meeting industry. By understanding the key trends in this article, BMPs will be able to find excellent dining locations that match their corporate objectives without breaking their budgets or ignoring consumer preferences

The Bistro Effect
Elaborate restaurants with interiors as intricate as their menus will always be an appealing option for those looking for a memorable dining experience. However, the growing construction of smaller, more informal restaurants is part of what international restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman calls “the bistro-ization of America.”

Look out for more of these intimate establishments that provide a low-key atmosphere while providing great tasting meals at an affordable price. The de-emphasis on trendy décor allows these facilities to focus on cultivating a hearty menu with diverse options. Bistros are also growing in popularity due to their large selections of wines and imported beers, making for a great location to bring together business professionals looking for a relaxed environment to talk business.

Ethnic Cuisine Continues Rise in Popularity
The country’s diverse population is another variable that’s shaping today’s restaurant industry. The immigration of a generation ago has resulted in a demographic of young professionals that represent a world of different backgrounds and are creating an exciting demand for multicultural menus.

According to McCormick’s 2009 flavor forecast, the average American consumer’s taste in food is expanding to include more exotic and ethnic fare than ever before. This shows that even in regions where the population is not as diverse as other markets, people are still interested in non-American food and are more than ready to patronize a new ethnic restaurant in the neighborhood.

Planners shouldn’t toss out their steak house contacts any time soon, as conducting business over cooked-to-order prime beef is a time honored American tradition that will always be a part of corporate culture. However, when working with larger groups where business isn’t expected to be so formal, don’t shy away from seeking out ethnic dining facilities. Most of these restaurants will have menu offerings that less adventurous group members will be able to enjoy.

Meeting planners know their client base better than anyone, so it’s important for them to be able to gauge preferences in culinary taste. If ethnic isn’t quite what’s desired, then planners can mix up the gastro itinerary by looking out for trendy New American restaurants. New American cuisine uses traditional dishes as its basis and then reinvents these comfort food staples using international recipes to create meals that are familiar, yet, strikingly fresh.

Asian cuisine continues to remain a popular choice with the savvy professionals of today. Asian food allows for people to enjoy flavorful and filling meals while maintaining the perception of being healthy eats. Similarly, other Near Eastern ethnic cuisines such as Mediterranean and Persian food are continuing to increase their fan base with the promise of delivering maximum taste with a minimum of calories.

Retro is In
It’s always good to provide variety, so alternate between dining facilities that offer adventures cuisine and those that cater to the more familiar.

It’s been proven that when Americans need reassurance, they turn to their favorite edible treats for support, so it’s no surprise that comfort foods like meatloaf and macaroni and cheese are making a comeback in mainstream dining facilities, even in high end locations where you’d least expect it.

Many restaurants are giving these much loved American classics a complete facelift, but even if the presentation is different, there’s no mistaking the taste of a bowl of hearty spaghetti and meatballs or an extra large helping of mashed potatoes. Again, it’s always a good thing for meeting planners to be able to read the mood of the group they are organizing for. If the waters are feeling just a bit icy, then it’s time for some old-fashioned comfort food.

Healthy Eating Extends To Restaurant Industry
It’s old news that Americans have become increasingly conscious about what they put into their bodies, but until recently, that concern has been confined to the personal kitchen area. Now consumers are expecting a healthy meal when dining out, which means that restaurants that are looking to please their customer base are going to reshape their menus in favor of leaner of offerings.

Looking for a restaurant that will satisfy the healthy preferences of business professionals may mean more than keeping an eye out for menus that steer clear of dishes high in saturated fats and cholesterol. American consumers are more discerning than ever when it comes to nutrition, even in the details. According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of the industry’s most popular trends, using locally grown produce is the No. 1 consumer request in the business, with the use of organic produce coming in 3rd.

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