Posted on 30th May 2011 @ 6:08 PM
By Marah Eakin May 25, 2011
She'll Take Your Orders Now
In the past, the National Restaurant Association show has been a great place to spot food trends. Gelato was very hot, apparently, a couple of years back. Last year was all about gluten-free options. This year, though, it was kind of a different story.
Sure, publicists tried to push some trends, like one who e-mailed before the show that smoked olive oil was the “hottest flavor for 2011.” Pitches flew about point of purchase machines and streamlining customer service. If anything, though, this year’s NRA show was about bringing fine dining experiences—or at least fine-seeming dining experience—to consumers who have lower budgets.
That doesn’t mean the restaurant industry is trying to get people to put on nice pants and eat lobster ravioli, but rather that the industry is trying to get jean-clad, burger-eating asses into their seats while still making people feel special. A bar will make a burger, for instance, but it will look like a nice burger that’s cooked the way a patron might have actually ordered it. Diners will get some hand-cut fries on the side, too—or at least fries that look hand-cut. Heck, the fries might even be pre-infused with ketchup seasoning so eaters don’t have to do any of that pesky dipping.
Nation’s Restaurant News said this year’s show was all about “responding to consumers’ increasing demand to have their food when and how they want it,” a trend perhaps sparked by innovations like last year’s ballyhooed magical Coke machine that held hundreds of different flavor combinations. There’s something to be said, too, for a presumption of luxury, even at the lowest-class chow joint. It’s like how a customer who is buying an $8 bottle of wine at Walgreen’s will want the one with the prettiest label. Carry that principle over to menu boards at fast food chains, or even to ice cream vending machines. The Moo Bella Ice Creamery machine, featured at the show and made in Chicagoland, is like a mini-Cold Stone, offering customers the option of 24 different ice creams—half light and half full creams, and three mix-ins like Oreos and M&Ms. Make choices on a touchscreen, and 40 seconds later there’s a customized and kind of tasty cup of ice cream in hand.
Cookies and cream might not sound revolutionary, but restaurants can stay afloat by offering customers something they didn’t even know they wanted. Enter two of the weirdest businesses on the NRA floor: Breastaurant Uniforms and The Beautiful Vending Styler. The former sells sexy waitress uniforms for upstanding establishments like Lewisville, Texas’ Twin Peaks Restaurant, whose CEO claims the “sexy lumberjack” look his waitresses sport has greatly contributed to the chow hut’s growth in the past five years. [Insert dick joke here.] Terra Watson, the company’s head designer, is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and claims to know “what makes the girls feel sexy and comfortable, and also what the customers like to see.” It might seem cheap, and it might seem crass, but, heck, Hooters is still in business. And hot 18-year-olds need jobs too, in these tough economic times, right?
Read the full article here: http://www.avclub.com/chicago/articles/breastaurants-and-burgers-at-the-national-restaura,56571/