Archive for March, 2014

NPD: Fast-casual restaurants lead unit growth in 2013 Overall unit growth in the industry remains conservative

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Fast-casual chains led the restaurant industry’s unit growth through most of 2013, expanding the total number of locations in that segment by 6 percent, according to The NPD Group.
The Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm found in its
Fall 2013 ReCount report that the fast-casual segment also outpaced the unit growth of the entire quick-service segment, which encompasses fast-food and fast-casual outlets.
Overall, the unit count across segments in the restaurant industry rose by 4,179 locations, or 0.7 percent, to a total of 633,043 restaurants during the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2013.
“The restaurant recovery continues to move slowly, and as a result, operators are taking a cautious approach to expansion,” Greg Starzynski, director of product management for NPD Foodservice, said in a statement. “This conservative approach to restaurant unit expansion will continue into the foreseeable future.”
However, NPD noted that the year ended Sept. 30 was the second consecutive period in which the restaurant industry’s total unit count grew, including for independent eateries, which had far more closures than restaurant chains during that time.
During the period, restaurant chains grew total unit count by 1 percent, to 281,613 locations, with a net increase of 3,171 units. Independent restaurants opened 1,008 net locations to reach 351,430 units, essentially flat compared to the earlier year.
The quick-service segment grew by 2 percent, to 333,970 total units during the period. Of those locations, 16,215 were fast-casual restaurants, which included 902 units opened over the previous 12 months.
The full-service segment — which for NPD’s research includes casual dining, midscale and family dining, and fine dining — shed 1 percent of its locations to end the 12-month period at 299,073 total units.
NPD added that its CREST research service found that total industry traffic to all restaurants was flat for the year ended in December 2013, compared with 2012. Consumers in the United States made approximately 61 billion restaurant visits during the year.

Bringing taste of spring to Dessert Menus

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Across the country chefs are featuring berries on their dessert menus. Even with much of our country experiencing the harshest winter in recent memory, blueberries are showing up in full force. Blueberries are exhibited the strongest over a four year menu research from Datassential. Berries are often paired with a touch of lemon in cakes and tarts.
Brian Evans, executive chef at The Tasting Room in Houston, is dishing out a blueberry chiffon cake with lemon-buttermilk Bavarian cream. It’s an airy yellow sponge cake with blueberry puree cut into little circles and then layered with whole blueberries and cream for $8. “I like to use blueberries this time of year,” said Evans. “It’s almost like a breath of spring.” Evans says the cake is among the restaurant’s best-selling desserts, in part because diners see it as a light way to end their meal.
At Isabella’s in New York City, chef Chris Giarraputo is serving a lemon blueberry tart for $8. Developed especially for Restaurant Week and with an eye toward spring, the tart is made of a butter crust shell with lemon filling and topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries. It’s been so popular Giarraputo said he will likely add it to the regular menu.
Recently appointed executive pastry chef at Chefs Club by Food & Wine at the St. Regis Aspen Resort in Aspen, Colo., Sylvain Marrari offers a blueberry cake that’s a spring-like spin on the classic molten chocolate cake for $10. But instead of melted chocolate, this cake oozes blueberry.

Jennifer and James Vellano, chef-owners of Greenwich, Conn.-based Maison Privé catering, are offering clients Mason jar trifles made of layers of blueberry preserves prepared last summer, butternut squash custard and spiced olive oil cake topped with whipped milk for $12.

Not quite ready to menu blueberries just yet, Joseph Gabriel, executive pastry chef at Oceana in New York City, finds a delicious alternative in huckleberries, the small red or purplish berries with a taste similar to that of a wild blueberry. He’s been serving them in his huckleberry Greek yogurt parfait since early fall.
“Normally, I don’t put berries on the menu in wintertime, but there’s always a demand for berries,” said Gabriel. “If you’re going to use a berry in wintertime, huckleberry is the one to use.”
Others chefs have been busy developing fresh blueberry desserts they plan to serve in just a few weeks when the berries arrive in season in their area.

Jemil Gadea, pastry chef at NoPa Kitchen and Bar in Washington, D.C., is whipping up a blueberry crumb cake to go on the menu around late April. It’s a classic coffee cake with hints of lemon and pink pepper and dotted with blueberries accompanied by a house-made double Devon cream, blueberry compote and a scoop of lemon-verbena-blueberry sorbet.

Cindy Schuman, pastry chef at Sepia in Chicago, plans to bring back her popular blueberry tart just as soon as the first fresh, local blues become available again. It’s a simple piecrust with blueberries baked into it, then topped with fresh blueberries and vanilla crumble, served with buttermilk ice cream and a lemon ginger sauce.

“I just wanted to make a dessert that kept the fruit in their most fresh state, straight from picking,” said Schuman. “You can always make a compote or coulis with the berries, but this [shows] them off at their best.”