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Tydel

Trends in Modern Restaurants

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For one of my Hotel, Restaurant Management Classes, I'm required to write a 5 page paper regarding the field, I've chose to write about Trends in modern restaurants.

From what I've read, seen here on the forums, and experienced first hand, I have a few thoughts about the trends. Any of you food buffs agree, disagree, or want to call me a heretic?

1) There is an increasing percentage of patrons and sales going to Dinner Houses (Casual and Casual-Fine Dining). Houston's, Iron Hill Brewery, etc.

2) New Diet. This one's fairly obvious, restaurants usually try to cater to the "in" diet of the time. A few years back, it was low fat. Now it's Low-Carb. I know at the restaurants where I worked, the regular menu didn't change much once Atkin's came to popularity, but the specials reflected it. Wraps were in, pastas and thick-breaded sandwiches were unfortunately out.

Yea, that's about all I got. Can anyone reccomend books, magazines, articles, etc. that might have anything?

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You might try performing a basic search with regard to the topics you refer to above.

Oh, and welcome to eGullet. :smile:

Soba

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For one of my Hotel, Restaurant Management Classes, I'm required to write a 5 page paper regarding the field, I've chose to write about Trends in modern restaurants.

From what I've read, seen here on the forums, and experienced first hand, I have a few thoughts about the trends.  Any of you food buffs agree, disagree, or want to call me a heretic?

1) There is an increasing percentage of patrons and sales going to Dinner Houses (Casual and Casual-Fine Dining).  Houston's, Iron Hill Brewery, etc.

2) New Diet.  This one's fairly obvious, restaurants usually try to cater to the "in" diet of the time.  A few years back, it was low fat.  Now it's Low-Carb.  I know at the restaurants where I worked, the regular menu didn't change much once Atkin's came to popularity, but the specials reflected it.  Wraps were in, pastas and thick-breaded sandwiches were unfortunately out.

Yea, that's about all I got.  Can anyone reccomend books, magazines, articles, etc. that might have anything?

What's a Dinner House - a chain?

Where I live - the Jacksonville FL beaches area - just about every independent dinner restaurant here has gone out of business in the last couple of years due to chain restaurants. Robyn

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A trend that I have noticed here in the Southwest is, national chain restaurant as show.. or one stop family entertainment, (why go out after dinner when you can get ample stimulation under one roof)? Inferior ethnic or specialty food is served with lots of gimmicks in decor like huge props (Chinese horses, the Pope,sawdust with calico and loud music to fit the theme etc.) and "cutesy" costumed young, good looking servers that "entertain" with meat on a sword, group songs, drawing on paper tableclothes etc. Folks here don't even notice they are paying way too much for inferior food. But heck, they are getting "entertained". I think this is where the "business" of restaurants is headed or shall I say... has arrived

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By dinner houses, I mean anything. Olive Garden, Houston's, and independent groups, like C&D Brewing Company (Iron Hill Brewery).

Thanks for the thoughts, guys. And thanks Soba, I found some good information searching the site, I knew I'd forgotten something.

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By dinner houses, I mean anything. Olive Garden, Houston's, and independent groups, like C&D Brewing Company (Iron Hill Brewery).

Thanks for the thoughts, guys. And thanks Soba, I found some good information searching the site, I knew I'd forgotten something.

I am confused. So people go to Dinner Houses as opposed to what? Robyn

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Here's your thesis Tydel.

1) It's a scam. Some guy thought up this 'concept' so he could make a couple of extra bucks to live out some other worthless dream. Like playing a bunch of golf.

2) The guy died. 256 pounds hitting the edge of the sidewalk. Don't listen to dead people my man.

Your thesis should be about how you are going to eat alot of bread, buy your food from the farmers and foragers of your 'hood. How your finding the local haunts that you never new existed. Places with soul food, good food, healthy food, real food. Joints that make your heart sing and your gullet gurgle. Tell us where you are from and we'll put out a collection plate for you so you can get a good dinner somewhere and you can write about it and submit the paper as a 300 page review in disguise and the world and your stomach will be a much better place.

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By dinner houses, I mean anything.  Olive Garden, Houston's, and independent groups, like C&D Brewing Company (Iron Hill Brewery). 

Thanks for the thoughts, guys.  And thanks Soba, I found some good information searching the site, I knew I'd forgotten something.

I am confused. So people go to Dinner Houses as opposed to what? Robyn

He means there is a recent trend in America where people tend to equate "fine dining" with a chain restaurant like TGIF, the Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden. (Right?)

It's not necessarily a bad trend. These are just people who don't know any better. :biggrin:

(*ducks from incoming*)

Soba

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I'd be interested to know what most of these people were going to before TGI Friday's, Olive Garden, etc. I have a feeling that most people were generally either not going out to eat or were going out to other lower-cost options that aren't necessarily any better, eg, greasy spoons, pizza, Mexican, and Chinese. Most of these places don't try too hard to compete in the cities but rule the suburbs and have expanded to the many mid-sized towns. My dad lives in a 12,000 person town an hour and a half from any city of size. They don't have fine dining and the closest thing they do have isn't any better than Olive Garden. I'm sure they'd love to have one. As it is, they mostly go out to mediocre pizza or Mexican.

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Hi Tydel. It seems from your initial post that you are articulate in your ideas and that you have a nicely defined voice. That's refreshing. Your professor will think so too, if you don't say anything you can't prove within the boundaries of your five page frame.

How closely are your terms defined for you? What is the exact definition of "Modern Restaurant" - as adressed in class?

Have you been guided by his lectures for that to mean "chains" or "dinner houses", or is that an interpretation which you plan to defend in your essay? It seems that your initial 2 ideas, extremely interesting and worth investigating by the way, seem more appropriate to much longer research papers.

If I had five pages I'd take it from a broader historical standpoint and push one single point rather than a contemporary economic one that requires a whole lot of specific data to prove. Try to give your professor a breather and entertain him or her. Professors are classic procrastinators and often have hundreds of pages to read in one night. :laugh:

Don't be afraid to read and be inspired by others' work. Quote and poach away, and thoroughly give your sources credit for every single word that inspires and shapes your essay. Use both footnotes and direct citations to avoid a name dropping fest. More original ideas should be reserved for more detailed and exhaustive research. In the 5 page paper bracket, a simple, entertaining essay that is well written and leaves no open ends gets an A every time.

Start global. Go to the library and see what the Cambridge World History of Food or the Oxford companion has to say about the history of restaurants, and get some specific sources that interest you from their references. Then for honing in on American trends, you might look to John Mariani's work. It would give you a start.

I'm not saying that it's what you should do, but it's what I'd do.

Good luck and please consider posting your paper if you come up with something you're proud of. I'd love to read it.

-Lucy


Edited by bleudauvergne (log)

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By dinner houses, I mean anything.  Olive Garden, Houston's, and independent groups, like C&D Brewing Company (Iron Hill Brewery). 

Thanks for the thoughts, guys.  And thanks Soba, I found some good information searching the site, I knew I'd forgotten something.

I am confused. So people go to Dinner Houses as opposed to what? Robyn

He means there is a recent trend in America where people tend to equate "fine dining" with a chain restaurant like TGIF, the Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden. (Right?)

It's not necessarily a bad trend. These are just people who don't know any better. :biggrin:

(*ducks from incoming*)

Soba

There are four "levels" of restaurants one of my HRIM professors gave to us:

QSR-McDonalds, etc.

Midscale-Shoney's, Denny's, etc.

Casual Dining (Dinner Houses)-Outback, Olive Garden (Isn't restricted to chains though, just think about prices and the menu)

Fine Dining-Le Bec Fin, etc.

Although QSR is still raking in the largest percentage of profit in the industry, Dinner Houses are on the rise, probably because they offer better service, and depending on your tastes, better food. This is one trend that I could talk about for my paper.

Another trend altogether is modern restaurants (which I define as any establishment that is actually open for business) responding to the trends in the dieting world. Specifically, utilizing new cooking methods and foods to please their customers who want low carb.

In theory, these two are intricately tied together. There's got to be a reason that Casual Dining is on the rise, and it could be that it's restaurants are better equipped to respond to trends in the food world. Fine Dining, for example, really wouldn't have to fight against the dieting trends, it's patrons most likely do not care. People looking to diet probably won't go to QSR that often, and the same goes to Midscale, where lard is clutch.

I've always hated using nothing but numbers in my papers, so I tend to use only what I need to reinforce a point I've drawn linguistically. The problem I've run into is that really, the only trend I can see with my own eyes, and draw comparisons for is the dieting trend thing, and I imagine it's overdone. But hey, it'll work out.

Thanks for the pointers guys.

*edit*

Paul Mitchell, that's actually not a terrible idea. I wonder if I could find a restaurant that focuses on what GOOD tasting food without running the prices through the roof or sacrificing health. I mean, a restaurant that makes it's sandwiches with thick bread, uses lots of pastas, and throws the whole Atkin's fad to the wind, relying on people to be intelligent enough to know good food when they see it. Of course, this would be going against the trends I talked about earlier, but I could talk about how some people see the low-carb trend being reflected in dinner houses as a terrible thing. Hmmmmm.


Edited by Tydel (log)

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You could also work in things like the "discovery" of raw fish by the general populace. A good example of this is the widespread seared tuna appetizers. It used to be that you "needed" to have steak and chicken on your menu. Now a ho-hum upper scale casual dining place would be lacking without at least a seared tuna app.


Andrew Baber

True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me

to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check

If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?

The Gentleman Gourmand

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hey Tydel, where are you going to school?

and, to cut to the chase, are you more interested in getting a good grade

(which means you need to write what your prof already thinks and wants to hear)

or

are you really interested in the topic?

sorry to be so cynical, but i worked in higher ed for perhaps too long.

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hey Tydel, where are you going to school?

and, to cut to the chase, are you more interested in getting a good grade

(which means you need to write what your prof already thinks and wants to hear)

or

are you really interested in the topic?

sorry to be so cynical, but i worked in higher ed for perhaps too long.

I go to Pennsylvania State University, in State College. Hoorah for college towns.

And yes, I'm incredibly interested in the topic. I've been working in restaurants since I was about 15, and just love the whole thing. I'm also an HRIM major, so I plan on doing something related to it for the rest of my life.

agbaber, That's a good point. The only way I can think to tie it into some of my previous ideas is to find a couple sample menus with seared tuna that focus on the fish, not something that might go with it (say, some type of pasta or rice). Did the "discovery" of seared tuna predate the lo-carb craze, or just coincide with it?

Food for thought.

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Tydel--I think your paper could argue the case that your professor has a poor grasp on the modern restaurant scene: that his latter two categories create artificial, superficial or just plain false distinctions between "casual" dining (as defined by Olive Garden et al) and "fine" dining (Le Bec Fin) and that there is a huge middle ground that doesn't "fit" into either category at all. Not to recognize it does a disservice to you and your future customers.

This middle category--smaller chef-owned or chef-driven restaurants that are independent, that aren't a chain or franchise or Dinner House as it has been defined for you--don't compete on the high end in terms of price, service, creativity and media attention yet are expected to compete (somewhat) on the lower end price and value-wise against chains and franchises that have collective buying power, economies of scale, and the lowest common denominator going for them.

Keep it local--Philly has a wealth of small independent chef-driven mid-range restaurants that you can research and interview, assess and evaluate market pressures and trends, and I suspect you could prove your thesis--that there is a large "fifth" category that should be on your professor's list which face unique pressures yet yield unique rewards and it is this category that is at the most risk. That the "trend" might be for this middle to disappear--if perception and awareness is not altered.

As clotheir advises, you should be cautious in how you approach this because if you explored and then argued this case you'd essentially be telling your professor he's pretty clueless.

And, 5 pages is not much--it might be better for you to approach this example as a case study--pick one small chef-driven independent restaurant, a good neighborhood place near you maybe--something along the lines of a Django, Salt, Pif, Chloe--and make the case why it is special--why it doesn't fit into either of the perceived casual or fine dining classifications--what it's market pressures are--and then what it has to do to survive. But really, you could stay within any one of those four categories and find a wealth of trends and interesting issues which affect us.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Tydel,

If you stick with your Dinner House/Chains category, you can certainly point to a proliferation of these restaurants. There are some urban cores that are even seeing the infiltration of the chains -- even though suburbia is still the domain for them.

Some reasons for this. 1) The economy is still in a state where people are looking for a lower cost when they go out to dinner. 2) There's something that I call "the standardization of food," where people want to eat what is known and safe. 3) There's a concurrent trend of overweight Americans, and the chains put out supersized portions -- again, it's the "if I'm going out to dinner, I want value, and that means big portions to many. Personally, I've never been able to finish anything from Houlihan's. 4) The chains have a stronger asset/cash base that they can grab the prime real estate whereas the independent chef/owner has to scrounge around for acceptable real estate. This fourth area is one of the reasons for the chain infiltration of the urban core. Cities need predictable revenue, and many are less willing to take a risk on an independent, opting instead for the "sure thing" of the chain. Even if the particular outpost of the chain fails, there's still the corporate pockets to go after for fulfillment of the entire lease. A chic new development went up within the past year in downtown Minneapolis. The restaurants in it are Hard Rock Cafe and Red Lobster.

What this means in the United States is variations on the American restaurant. Italian chains are really turning out "Americanizations" of supposedly Italian cuisine. P.F. Changs is American Asian, to use another example.

Let me give you some data points. In Minneapolis/St. Paul there is an annual survey of "best" restaurants conducted by many local publications. Almost always, a chain (Buca di Beppo, Olive Garden, or Marcaroni Grill) wins Best Italian. Big Bowl of P.F. Chang's wins Best Asian. Pizza Hut is in the top three for Best Pizza. McDonald's is in the top three for Best Hamburger. Red Lobster finishes in the top three for Best Seafood. This past year, Best Neighborhood Restaurant went to -- make sure you're sitting down -- Applebee's.


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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I definantley agree with all of Brads points and would like to add, from my own personal experiance; I have 3 children, 11, 7 & 2.5. When we do go out, I refuse to sit in a McDonalds or Burger King, the next step up is Applebee's (or some such place). The kids enjoy it (they get to color and recieve a balloon as they leave) they always find a meal on the menu they enjoy. I don't feel bad bringing my kids there (because they are noisey, but they blend in with the other kids). My husband and I can find something we can eat, I don't have to do the dishes, someone waits on us, and I can get a drink. The service is usually fast (needed with a 2.5 year old) and the price is right.

FYI: when my husband and I dine out alone we support local chef owned establishments.

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2) There's something that I call "the standardization of food," where people want to eat what is known and safe.

I don't think there's anything wrong about standardization in *any* restaurant if you mean that when you order the same thing twice in a row - you'll get it prepared pretty much the same both nights. This is one of my biggest gripes about all restaurants - that if I like something the first time I go there - and I order it again - it is 50/50 at best that the dish will resemble what I ate the last time (and - most often - I don't like it as much). I think another phrase for "standardization" is "quality control". Robyn

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I wasn't necessarily being evaluative, just descriptive. And I'll take it even further than something ordered two nights in a row at a restaurant. Chains rely heavily on standardization so that when a customer goes into a TGIF anywhere and orders a menu item, it will be the same no matter where the restaurant is located. That's what people want, why you see them by airports and hotels, etc.

If I wanted to be evaluative, I would've added that they don't want to go someplace where the menu is always changing, where ingredients have unfamiliar names, where someone actually takes a risk. I would've also called it the "lowest common denominator" rather than "standardization." :smile:


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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I wasn't necessarily being evaluative, just descriptive.  And I'll take it even further than something ordered two nights in a row at a restaurant.  Chains rely heavily on standardization so that when a customer goes into a TGIF anywhere and orders a menu item, it will be the same no matter where the restaurant is located.  That's what people want, why you see them by airports and hotels, etc.

If I wanted to be evaluative, I would've added that they don't want to go someplace where the menu is always changing, where ingredients have unfamiliar names, where someone actually takes a risk.  I would've also called it the "lowest common denominator" rather than "standardization."  :smile:

OK- lowest common denominator is different than quality control. We have just about every chain in the world imaginable where I live (Jacksonville FL). My biggest quarrel with the food is it's almost always salted to death. If I wanted to weigh 2 pounds more in the morning due to salt/water retention - I'd eat lousy Chinese instead of lousy chain restaurant food.

On the other hand - there isn't necessarily anything wrong with wanting to get the same thing again and again if you happen to like it. To give you an example - my husband and I plied the I95 route from Florida north for years and years for various reasons. And we would always try to be adventurous. But when you stop at a non-chain place and wind up with lousy food much more than 50% of the time - you stop trying - except for the couple of non-chain places that seem ok and reasonably consistent. Heck - we sent my brother-in-law and his wife to a non-chain place on their trip north a few weeks ago - a place we like - and there was a sign on the door - "gone fishing - be back soon" - something like that. And this is high season for north/south traffic on I95! I'm glad the place was close to the interstate.

I think one factor you leave out of the equation is that people - particularly younger people - tend to be busy these days. And they don't necessarily have a lot of disposable income to experiment with. They don't want to mess around poking around here - poking around there - spending lots of time - lots of money - only to find many places that disappoint the first time - and many that disappoint on subsequent visits. I'm older - I have more time - and I have more money - and I don't even want to deal with it these days.

There has been a recent influx of higher end chain restaurants where I live. Places like Roy's. And they have put a lot of local places out of business. I only ate at Roy's once - in Hawaii - and I didn't care for it. But I never returned to any of the places it put out of business either after trying them initially. Too expensive - too inconsistent. One was $150+ for 2 in a Day's Inn where they hadn't spent more than $100 decorating. In another - the chef/owner really needed 4 servers - but only hired 2 on weekdays because he hoped he wouldn't be full. Most didn't bother to spend the bucks to get a full liquor license. So I am not crying for the recently departed.

By the way - I was in Minneapolis last year - and I think the only thing you needed to do ok that balmy week in May when spring finally arrived was a patio. Which is why Aquavit didn't make it. Robyn

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I think one factor you leave out of the equation is that people - particularly younger people - tend to be busy these days. And they don't necessarily have a lot of disposable income to experiment with. They don't want to mess around poking around here - poking around there - spending lots of time - lots of money - only to find many places that disappoint the first time - and many that disappoint on subsequent visits. I'm older - I have more time - and I have more money - and I don't even want to deal with it these days.

You're right. And I often forget to consider the perspective of people with kids, not having any ourselves.

It's a difficult issue. I'd like to see the indies be more successful -- provided they are delivering on quality, service, and value. But I understand the role that chains play, too. It's when some of these beome the WalMart of the restaurant world is when it gets scary for me.

Good discussion.


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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