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Trends for 2012

publication date: Jan 20, 2012
author/source: Andrew Freeman & Co.'s Annual Report
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Over 70 Restaurant and Hospitality Trends for 2012 Described
in Andrew Freeman & Co.'s Annual Report

November 2011 - Now in its fifth year, Andrew Freeman & Co.’s annual restaurant and hospitality trends report has become a highly-anticipated industry standard for anticipating market demand and consumer feedback. With more than 70 trends identified as a result of extensive research, the report is intended:
  1. As a preview of the hottest trends and predictions in hotels, spas and restaurants for the coming year.
  2. As a guide to help operators plan for the coming year.


This Spuds for You – 2012 will be the year of the potato! Watch out for French Fry Menus that let guests choose the cut, crispness, and sauce; make-your-own mashers with mix-ins; or custom cut chips with dusts and dips to order. Everyone’s chipping in.
Example: French Fry Menu at Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen (San Francisco, CA)

31 Hundred Flavors – Everyone loves ice cream… creative chefs are taking advantage of its blank canvas to entice people to try unfamiliar flavors of all sorts and styles. And people are licking it up!

Examples: "Autumn Pear" with Licorice Sabayon, Confit of Bartlett Pear, Candied Beet, and Sourdough Ice Cream at Murray Circle (Sausalito, CA); Grass and Horseradish Ice Cream at Max and Mina’s (Queens, NY)

Melt in Your Hands
–Grilled cheese the new hamburger? We think so. Restaurants devote special evenings or entire menus to this childhood favorite loved by kids of all ages. From fast-casual to high end, expect more restaurants to develop their own signature sandwiches from high end to low.

Examples: Ham and Cheese Grilled Sandwich at Melt (San Francisco, CA); Not Your Mother’s Grilled Cheese Night at Brick & Bottle (Corte Madera, CA)

Use Your Noodle
– Noodles are nothing new, but innovative and exciting restaurants are highlighting this ancient art with glorified exhibition style hand-pulled noodles. It’s dinner and a show.

Example: Hand-Pulled Noodles at Chef Martin Yan’s M.Y. China (Opening Spring 2012 in San Francisco, CA)

Thai the Knot
– Exciting, creative takes on modern Thai cuisine are becoming some of the hottest destinations in town as diners become more adventurous and love the evocative flavors. An increasingly savvy clientele will come to appreciate focus on regional Thai variations.

Examples: Massaman Curry Braised Goat with Fried Shallots, Purple Yams, Mustard Greens, and Peanuts at Kin Shop (New York, NY); Thai Lobster Bisque with Kaffir Lime, Lemon Grass & Coconut Milk at Level III (San Francisco, CA)

Produce-ing Desserts
– Move over carrot cake, cutting edge pastry chefs are turning vegetables into sweet finales. They’ll make you eat your veggies with sweet satisfaction.

Example: Goat Cheese with Celery, Fig Agrodolce and Celery Sorbetto at Del Posto (New York, NY)

Inspiring Mouths Want to Know
– Chefs tell the story behind the dish by paying tribute to their inspiration on menus. Guests love to have the back-story and it builds a personal connection or recommendation --- even when it isn’t personal.

Examples: “Jamy’s Favorite Cured Salmon Pastrami” at Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar (Sonoma, CA); "My Grandmother’s Cornbread” with House Made Butter & Local Berkeley Honey at FIVE (Berkeley, CA)

Strip Service
– Restaurants are keeping prices low and the feeling casual by stripping the dining rooms back. Expect not only bare tables but bare amenities as guests take on more responsibility: pouring their own water from a carafe, hanging on to or setting their own silver, and tearing off their own bread.

Example: Guests set their own table at A-Frame (Los Angeles, CA)

Recipes for Success
– Hospitality careers are hot! From intensive professional training programs to specialty programs for continuing education and amateur classes for hobbyists, everyone is getting in on the action. According to the National Restaurant Association by 2014, the culinary industry will add 1.4 million jobs... The industry has never been hotter. Hot jobs, cool economy.

Examples: International Culinary Center of California (Campbell, CA); Rob Black, Executive Director of Golden Gate Restaurant Association (San Francisco, CA) says, “Thanks to a healthy tourist industry and San Franciscans that love to eat, we’re seeing growth in the hospitality sector and in the numbers of restaurants coming to us for resources. Our membership continues to grow and more restaurateurs are coming to us for support, resources and a sense of community.”

Eating Between the Lines – High class food comes to a fast casual setting as high-end chefs open fast-casual offshoots using premium ingredients in dressed down settings. At the same time, fast-casual restaurants dress up the experience with more formal plateware and service.

Examples: Hawker Fare (Oakland, CA); Calafia Café (Palo Alto, CA)

Chaat Rooms
– Indian street foods will gain popularity as fans flock to food trucks, pop-ups and quick-service restaurants selling fast, fresh, spicy Indian fare. Look for Kati Rolls, Puri with sauces and condiments, or “Pav” sandwiches with spiced vegetables.

Examples: Vegetarian Thali at Pondicheri Cafe (Houston, TX); Aloo Tikka Chaat-Potato Cakes from Bombay Bowl's Street Food Menu (Denver ,CO)

Breakfast Club
– Breakfast is the new dinner. Everyone loves brunch and breakfast foods. Restaurants are re-interpreting breakfast for lunch, dinner and late night menus. Waffle sandwiches, savory turnovers, eggs in any manner of ways, pigs in a blanket, hollandaise topped sandwiches and French toast or bread pudding served either sweet or savory. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day --- no matter what time it comes.

Example: Bruxie Gourmet Waffle Sandwiches (Orange, CA)

Red Hot Chili Peppers
– Specialty chili peppers are heating things up. Middle Eastern Aleppo Pepper, African Piri Piri or the incendiary Indian Ghost Pepper is spicing up menus near and far. Sargent Pepper’s Heart Club isn’t lonely any more.

Example: Indian Ghost Pepper Sauce on Naan at New Delhi (San Francisco, CA)

Healthy Indulgences
– Health-conscious diners will be satisfied with more nutritious meals and drinks that offer real appeal. Expect signature, whole grain salads and sides, a selection of plates available in smaller sizes, menu items that appeal to particular dietary needs, and high-fructose free sodas. Not your typical light reading.

Examples: Prawn Salad with on the Gluten-Free Menu at E&O Trading Co. (San Francisco, CA); Skinnylicious Menu at Cheesecake Factory (multiple locations, nationwide)

Turn Over a New Leaf
– Chefs pine-ing for new flavors will use subtle infusions of pine needles, douglas fir and eucalyptus to flavor sauces, rubs, meats, jus and broths. Explore a forest of flavor.

Examples: Loin of Roe Deer Baked in Douglas Fir with Beetroot, Smoked Bone Marrow, Crisp Potato and Pinot Lees at The Ledbury (London, England); Spring Lamb With Eucalyptus Foam at Graham Elliot (Chicago, Ill.)

Tableaux Settings
– Artistic chefs are creating edible landscapes that represent where the food actually came from. Oysters served on a rock, mushrooms in a forest of edible “moss”, it’s food as art and nature extended.

Example: Douglas Fir Ice Cream Popsicles served with Smoking Dry Ice and Fresh Douglas Fir Nettles at Atelier Crenn (San Francisco, CA)

Liquid Diet – What was “foam” or “dirt” is now liquid, as chefs and cocktail experts are distilling all the flavors of a complex, integrated dish into liquid form. Alcohol may or may not be included.

Example: Sourdough Grilled Cheese Sandwich Infused Vodka served up as a martini at Lafitte (San Francisco, CA)

Let it Snow
– First there was shaved ice, now there is shaved ice cream as Snow Ice comes to America. Offering the flavor and creaminess of ice cream with unbelievably light texture, Snow Ice is sure to please. Break the cone of silence and scream for Snow Ice.

Examples: Cloud 9 (Chicago, Ill.); Mango Snow Ice with Fresh Mango and Egg Custard at Fluffy Snow (San Francisco, CA)

Go Hungary
– Everyone is Russian to go Hungary with Eastern European food moving into the main stream. Czech your reservations (make them instead!) because this trend has a great Prague-nosis.

Examples: Moscow 57 (New York, NY); Wise Sons Deli (San Francisco, CA)


- The Castro is hot, hot, hot (and we don't just mean the men). It will be the hottest neighborhood for new restaurants in the coming year.  The good food movement moves to this vibrant scene.

Example: Canela, a new Spanish style bistro; Criolla Kitchen, a Southern restaurant
Next Up: Inner Sunset


Tap Dancing – First it was cask-aged cocktails, pre-measured mixed drinks were barrel-aged for added nuance. Now mixed drinks are available on tap; barrel or not. It’s the new Manhattan project. It’s quick and convenient.

Example: Cask Aged Negronis at Clyde Common (Portland, OR)

It Was a Fine, Fine Beer
– Vintage beers are coming of age. Offering intrigue and a taste of the past with higher alcohol beers meant to age.

Example: 1999 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale at The Modern (New York, NY)

Double Hitter
– Bars are pitching double-hitters with offers of a cocktail or shot and a beer to chase it with. Call it a one-two shot.

Examples: “$25 Bourbon, Burger & Beer” at Fifth Floor (San Francisco, CA); “Beer & a Shot” at Hogs & Rocks (San Francisco, CA)

Drinks with Drive – The food truck craze has extended to drinks as cocktail trucks are taking to the streets and spirits brands seek to build recognition.

Examples: Leblon Cachaca Caipirinhas Truck (multiple locations, nationwide); BrewTruc (San Francisco, CA)

On Solid Ground
– Everyone from bartenders, artists, and pastry chefs will break the mold and reinvent cocktails in solid form. Frozen beverages translate to sorbet and popsicles while artistically layered boozy jellies give jello another shot.

Example: Cuban Libre Gelatin Square at Tailor (New York, NY)

Ounce Upon a Time
– Serious spirits enthusiasts and avid wine drinkers will pay for an opportunity to taste luxury beverages beyond their means --- one ounce at a time. Pay to play.

Examples: Nicolas Palazzi serves one ounce pours of premium spirits at cost in The Hooch Project (New York, NY); David Bouley offers menu items from caviar to wine at $5 per ounce at By The Ounce, a wine bar inside Bouley Bakery (New York, NY)

Fram-Booze-le – Breweries are adding fruit to beers of all types. This new fruit juice adds a little hop to your step.

Examples: Apricot Saison au Poivre by Nebraska Brewing Co. (nationwide); Fruit Beer Festival (Portland, OR)

Sip Tease – Mini cocktails offered as an amuse “wet” the appetite before the drinks and meal to come. Create a sense of generous hospitality, while enticing guests to try beverages from the bar program. We’ll drink to that!

Example: Sangria at Mercat a la Planxa (Chicago, Ill.)


Stroop There it Is! – The Dutch dessert (a dark treacle syrup)

Example: Hete Bliksem at Vandagg (New York, NY)

In the Schnitz…
– Shnitzle sandwiches (or Milanese)

Example:  Schnitzel & Things (New York, NY)

Yuzu Sexy
– Yuzu Kosho (a Japanese spice)

Example:  Yuzu Kosho Grilled Scallops by Chef Tadashi Ono at Matsuri (New York, NY)

Issan-ometric Exercise
- Isaan sausage

Example: Pok Pok (Portland, OR); Thai Nakom restaurant (Stanton, CA)

‘Mallow Out Dude
– Home-made flavored marshmallows in exotic flavors

Example: DreamPuff Marshmallows Handmade Marshmallows in many flavors including Guinness Stout and Blackberry Cabernet (New York, NY)

The Lovely Bones
– Marrow bones, rib bones, ham bones, bone soup

Examples: Bone Marrow at L’Express (Montreal, Canada); Tripe with Bone Marrow & local Black Truffles at Artusi (Seattle,WA)

Duck, Duck, Goose Eggs

Examples: Pork Jowl and Goose Egg at Bolsa (Dallas, TX); Poached Duck Egg with Chorizo and Lentils at Nightwood (Chicago, Ill.)

Wurst Case Scenario – Currywurst

Examples: Currywurst at Berlin Currywurst (Los Angeles, CA); Currywurst Bro’s (New York, NY)

Lamb Belly up! -  Lamb belly

Examples: Moroccan BBQ Lamb Belly at M.B. Post (Manhattan Beach, CA); Lamb Belly with Flageolet Beans, Pistachios, Cardamom, Yogurt at eVe (Berkeley, CA)

Show Me Some Skin – Crispy pig skin, chicken skin, fish skin

Example: Gravy in Chicken Skin, with Roast Foie Gras and a Peppercorn Biscuit at Recette (New York, NY)

Gnoc-chi Ingredient - Parisian gnocchi

Example: Parisian Gnocchi with Morels, English Peas, and Parmesan at Spur Gastropub (Seattle, WA)

Catcher in the Rye
– Rye Whiskey

Example: Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Baby got Zwack!
- Herbal liqueur made in Hungary with a secret blend of more than 40 different herbs and spices

Example: Lamplighter Cocktail at Violet Hour (Chicago, Ill.)

Big Bare(njager) hug
– Honey liquor

Example: The Golden Rule cocktail with Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, and Underberg Bitters at Grüner (Portland, OR)

The Date-ing Game
– Date syrups and glazes on meats and in drinks

Example: Jallab, date syrup mixed with water and flavored with rosewater at Balade (New York, NY)

The Bitter Lemon Truth – Bitter lemon soda

Example: The London Calling Cocktail with Bitter Lemon Soda, Beefeater Gin, Smashed Cucumber, and Rhubarb, at BoBo (New York, NY)


Warm Front
– Hotels are warming up by eliminating the formal front desk. Enjoy a personal greeting at the door from a Welcome Ambassador and special gifts or treats in reward for repeat business. We have entered a new thank you economy that offers the combination of a curbside check-in and coming home to a Jewish mother.

Example: No front desk at Hotel Cipriani (Beverly Hills, CA)

Made to Fit – Ultra-targeted personalized service includes not only catering to guests with any special dietary requirements and providing culturally appropriate in-room amenities but also providing personal advice from finding the best off-beat galleries to the most avant-garde dining. Take advantage of your new personal hopper.

Example: Naturally Peninsula Menu at the Peninsula (Hong Kong, China)

Classy Vacations
- Offer do-it-yourself experiences for every type, including, cooking classes, gardening opportunities, lessons on pickling or preserving, even massage instruction. Guests seek out experiential vacations and want to get involved.

Examples: Garden tours at Wente Vineyards (Livermore, CA); Cooking classes or guided hikes at Cavallo Point Lodge (Sausalito, CA)

Phone Home
– Take advantage of smartphone technology that offers guests the comforts of home. Provide downloadable custom apps to order room service, drinks, movies, or even a local map. Be smart.

Example: Smartphone app to order room service at SLS Hotel (Los Angeles, CA)

Taking Charge
– Lead the charge! Due to growing popularity, hotels and resorts offer electric-car charging stations for guest use.

Examples: The Ritz-Carlton (Charlotte, NC); The Grand Geneva Resort (Lake Geneva, WI)

Bedtime Suites – Encourage sweet dreams with customized turndown sweets recreating childhood favorites. Look for hot chocolate, rice crispy treats, cracker jacks, or cookies and a glass of milk of course.

Examples: During the holiday season at The Stanford Court, guests receive an "Elf Tuck in," a personalized family stocking filled with treats, and other fun add-ins (San Francisco, CA)

Cleanse-ing Diets – Eco-conscious guests cut down on cleaning -- saving labor, time and materials with elective daily cleaning programs.

Examples: The Sir Francis Drake (San Francisco, CA)

Shop and Drop
– New lobby bar/marketplaces offer enticing places to grab a quick drink, gourmet snack, espresso, light meal or edible souvenirs any time of the day. Make yourself at home with self-service snacks or treats to bring back to your room or take with you. One size feeds all.

Examples: CanteenM at CitizenM Hotels (multiple locations, worldwide); The Market at VINeleven at the Napa Valley Marriott (Napa Valley, CA)

The Royal Bedding
– Sleep number bedding, hypo-allergenic organic sheets, and TempurPedic beds offer full customization. Now everyone is the princess, no peas needed.

Example: Pure Rooms mattress and pillow encasements at JW Marriott (San Francisco, CA)

Say Spa-aaah – Conan Owen, of Relax & Rejuvenate, predicts that spa goers will put a little more oomph in their relaxation regimen and undergo clinical treatments such as glycolic peels and other treatments that focus on rejuvenation from an almost medical perspective.

Examples: Ampoule Therapy at Ink Spa (New York, NY)

In the “Q” – Garner a quick response with QR codes. Capture foot traffic with QR codes in the window and on key collateral pieces that link to the website, facebook page or reservations link. Or use one for a virtual concierge site that guests can access on the go, a special contest, or a micro-site that tells a story about who you are and what you do.

Examples: Code Unique Hotel in (Dubai Studio City, Dubai) is a giant QR code; coasters at the W Hotel are printed with a QR code (Fort Lauderdale, FLA)

Follow the Crowd
– Engage your fan base through surveys and contests via social media and other online efforts. Use crowd sourcing to determine special packages, perks, seasonal offers and other key features. Let guests weigh-in on key decisions, fostering a sense of personal investment and ownership to instill loyalty. Shift focus from “the cloud” to “the crowd.”

Example: Facebook questionnaires at Haiyi Hotels (San Francisco, CA)

Tuesdays are the New Thursdays – Promote slow nights with special events and promotions designed to draw traffic on off nights. Get creative with ideas ranging from Monday Movie Night in the lobby to Tequila and Taco Tuesdays and Sunday Suppers.

Example: Monday Movie Night at the W Hollywood Hotel (Hollywood, CA); Taco Tuesdays at Royal Palms Resort & Spa (Phoenix, AZ)

Hello Kiddie
– Treat the kids like little grown-ups with custom tailored child-friendly services and offerings.  This ranges from smaller portions of “adult” items and healthy alternatives on restaurant menus, to low temperature saunas or hot tubs in spas. Introduce age appropriate diversions including climbing gyms in the fitness center or cartoons for in-room movies. Let the kids play like the adults --- and forget baby-“sitting.”

Examples: Hotel Gstaad-Saamen (Switzerland) offers climbing wall and low temperature sauna; Le Meurice (Paris, France) provides kids sized bathrobse and slippers, tea time serving delicious sweets, and a child’s passport of Paris.

Bespoken For – “Bespoke” is the new buzz word in the luxury market as people search for customization in a mass-market world. Give people the opportunity to tailor their experience and show the extra care and personalization that comes with it.

Example: Bespoke Hotels (multiple locations,UK)

Do the Local Motion
- Everyone is doing the "local" motion as hotels, spas and restaurants reinforce a unique sense of place. Hotels work with local artists and designers to incorporate indigenous materials in their construction and place local products in their mini bars, while spas rely on locally grown natural and organic ingredients for their products and treatments. Meanwhile, chefs are redefining what it means to be local by calling out region specific influences and reinforcing the sense of what it means to be local by emphasizing a precise place.

Examples: Raindance Spa (Sonoma, CA) works with a local apothecary to develop exclusive spa products and teas crafted from organic local ingredients. Chef Joseph Humphrey’s “Bay Area Cuisine influenced by his Southern upbringing” at Dixie (opening late 2011 in San Francisco, CA)

Music as Muse
– Customized playlists are nothing new, but now hotels and restaurants are working with composers, musicians and designers to compose a soundtrack that enhances the experience and relates to the occasion.

Examples: Jenny-O performance at RLife LIVE shows at The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort (Sonoma, CA); custom playlist at Ace Hotel (Portland, OR)

Cell Serve
– Take advantage of location based marketing synced to cell phones to make direct outreach to potential guests in your area. Tell them where you are and what you do. Can you hear us now?

Examples: Google Wallet integrated payment and loyalty program at Subway; Foodspotting; Urban Spoon; etc.

– Explore alternative forms of payment including pre-purchased tickets, reservations by auction, and by-the-hour pricing to cut-down on loss, and spur excitement.

Examples: Advance purchase tickets at Next (Chicago, Ill.); "Cook by the Hour" menu at iNG (Chicago, Ill.)

Siberia is Hot!
– Turn the least desirable room or the taboo table to the most coveted reservation by booking “problem” spots at discount rates or with special features. The worst seat in the house just got a whole lot better.

Example: Alexander’s Steakhouse (San Francisco, CA) offered 50% off the table located between two restrooms

Eat to Give, Give to Eat
– Indulgence feels even better when they give back to the community. Expand marketing potential by partnering with a charity and tying the profits of a cocktail, wine or dessert purchase to a good cause.

Example: La Boulange Fridays, a monthly charitable dinner at La Boulange bakery  where guests donate whatever they feel comfortable with and La Boulange matches the night’s donation up to $5,000 (multiple locations, CA)

Open & Clothes – Hotels and restaurants are partnering with designers and designer brands for uniform needs. Consider it couture for a pulled-together look. Give employees a variety of uniform choices as a way to express themselves, such as a plaid shirt of any pattern, or any tie in a given color scheme. There’s nothing uniform about it.

Example:  Levi’s partnership with Saison (San Francisco, CA)

Virtual Break Down – People still want a personal connection. Create a tangible experience within your four walls with face-to-face interaction and something tangible to take away with them. Yes, the matchboxes are back! Reach out and touch someone.

Example: After tasting Domaine Chandon sparkling wine, guests are gifted their tasting flute at Domaine Chandon (Yountville, CA)

Seeing Double
– Two concepts share one space with different menus, different cooks or different services, and different hours of service. Call it “multiple personality in order.”

Examples: Mission Chinese Food and Lung Shan (San Francisco, CA); Birch & Barley and Church Key (Washington DC, DC)

Keep the Change – Temporary restaurants are popping up in incredible settings: perched above a museum, on a cliff, in a park, or nestled tree top with food delivered by zip line. More permanent restaurants can regularly change their concept to reinvent themselves and keep guests coming back for something new or different. Take advantage of temporary infrastructure to keep costs down, and add immediacy to drive traffic up.

Examples: Pop-up Hotels by Living Architecture (multiple locations, England); Guest Chef Dinners at Baker & Banker (San Francisco, CA)

Social Sciences - Social media is getting savvy, as it continues to evolve and skilled practitioners are using it as a successful sales tool. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foodspotting to connect with meeting planners, secure group business or attract new guests.

Examples: Carlton Hotel (New York, NY) reportedly sourced $186,550 in new group and corporate business in 90 days via LinkedIn; Inn at Laurel Point (Victoria, BC) uses Twitter to connect with meeting planners prior to a site visit or conference

The Name Game – Express yourself, your personality, and your concept with a name that speaks volumes and will stick in people’s minds. Goodbye Garden Court and hello Hairy Canary.

Examples:  The Arrogant Butcher (Phoenix, AZ); My Fathers’ Office (Santa Monica CA); How to Cook a Wolf (Seattle, WA); Ruxbin (Chicago, Ill.)

Online Ditchcount - Hotels and Restaurants are moving away from online discounting sales like Groupon and instead partnering with online marketing firms that offer gift cards and one of a kind experiences.

Example: Online gift cards at Treatful (nationwide); Exclusive secret menus through Black Board Eats (nationwide)

Andrew Freeman & Co. is a high-energy hospitality agency with a unique blend of expertise in marketing, publicity and creative services.  The AF&Co team will do whatever it takes to build awareness for clients and ultimately increase sales. AF&Co offers tailored, flexible programs that include: creative/concept development, branding, recruiting, graphic design, public relations, sales/marketing, training, event management, and more depending on the clients’ needs. The AF&Co team is creative, direct and fun, and focuses on the areas that they are passionate about: restaurants and wine, travel and hotels, and lifestyle personalities and products. For more information, visit afandco.com or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

An industry veteran, prior to opening AF&Co. six years ago, Andrew worked at legendary New York venues including Windows on the World, the Russian Tea Room and the Rainbow Room.  Eventually Andrew left New York to become the Vice President of Public Relations and Strategic Partnerships for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, based in San Francisco. He spent ten years with Kimpton, launching the global brand and over 40 hotels and restaurants. Andrew is currently the head of a dynamic hospitality agency offering full service marketing, public relations and consulting for hotels and restaurants.
. Contact:

Colin Baugh
Emblem PR
P: 206-931-1037
E: colin@emblempr.com
T: @colinbaugh
S: colin.christian.baugh

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