Nouvelle Cuisine: F&B Trends to Watch

For centuries, the only maxim one needed to know about creating a great dining experience was, "Man cannot live by bread alone." Well, for the past few years, we've been trying to live on everything but bread (and other forms of carbs). Now it appears that the pendulum is about to swing back the other way. But what else is on the horizon for food & beverage options? Here are the top dining trends of the future, as observed by the F&B directors at properties throughout the Benchmark Hospitality International chain.

1. The Atkins diet is proving to be a fad, and interest is fading. Carbs aren't yet king, but neither are they a pariah anymore. Although consumers are aware of the importance of monitoring one's carbohydrate intake, they also understand the need to look at the whole picture—weighing calories and healthy fats, and supplying one's system with enough fiber for a well-balanced diet.

2. European cuisine and eating habits, which encourage a leaner diet, are finally catching on in the U.S. Antipasti meats, cheeses, vegetables in marinades with olive oils, croutons, caponata, smoked fish, and tuna packed in oils all offer the opportunity for satisfying flavors and moderation in intake. This is a major breakthrough in stylish dining and is gaining favor nationally.

3. Pampering in the restaurant is as important as pampering at the spa. It's a treat looked forward to after a long day in meetings. Some properties are responding with optional menus, which offer a variety of food choices and highly personalized service styles. Guest preferences are recorded and delivered each time the person dines in the restaurant, right down to the guest's preferred wait staff whenever possible.

4. Refreshment breaks get more convenient and comfort foods are making a comeback. Refreshment breaks at resorts, hotels, and conference centers are moving in the direction of convenience stores, meaning that guests are looking for quick "pick up and carry out" choices. On the other hand, they are also requesting home-made specialties prepared with a little TLC to avoid processed food products.

Comfort foods on breaks are coming back strong—including cheeses such as Brie baked in pastry, mini satays, quiche, stuffed cherry peppers, mini meatballs, and American-style tapas.

5. Get ready, get set, now cook. Cooking gatherings and culinary teambuilding are hot, hot, hot, and becoming a preferred way of bringing people together. This is as true in the corporate setting as it is at home.

Cooking together is a fantastic way to get to know your friends, and a great way to bond with your colleagues. For many "weekend food & beverage warriors," it is a terrific opportunity to excel in a new sphere and share this knowledge with others. Oh, and it tastes good too!

As corporate director of food and beverage, Robert Zappatelli leads the overall food and beverage programming for the 25 properties in Benchmark Hospitality's portfolio. He is the recipient of numerous culinary gold medals and has been named "Chef of the Year" by the American Culinary Institute. He can be reached through Benchmark's communications department at (201) 758-2864.