Eateries Spice Up, Tone Down

November 29, 1990|By Cindy Harper-Evans

If you're looking to add selections to your restaurant menu or contemplating starting a new eatery but don't know what to serve, here are a few of the latest trends for restaurateurs:

* Whole-wheat pizza.

* Skinless chicken.

* Ethnic cuisine.

* Express take-out service.

And restaurants that fit the "4 C's" -- Comfort, Convenience, Cleanliness and Casualness -- are expected to be the most profitable eating establishments through the '90s.

So says Bill Reynolds, a professor at the highly respected Culinary Institute of America in New York, who gave a seminar at the Mid-Atlantic Foodservice & Lodging Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center yesterday.

Indian, Thai and Vietnamese foods are becoming more popular nationwide, Mr. Reynolds said, and new and interesting menu items will become a competitive necessity.

"The keywords are no longer 'bland,' " he said. They are "spicy," "exotic" and "flavorful."

New examples of such trends in Baltimore are Cochin, a Vietnamese restaurant that took the place of the bankrupt Washington Place Grill in September, and Helmand, an Afghan restaurant that opened a year ago in the Mount Vernon area.

Mr. Reynolds said "gustatory glasnost" -- food from Eastern Europe such as goulash -- has been popular recently but is expected to be more of a fad then a trend.

"Chefs are feeling free to say it doesn't just have to be American ingredients to be good," he said. "Lemon grass in meatloaf? Maybe."

Mr. Reynolds said the food-service industry will continue to grow, even in a recession.

Americans have become increasingly time-conscious and impatient, so restaurants that use new delivery methods such as ordering by fax machine or delivery by Federal Express will have an added advantage in the eyes of consumers, Mr. Reynolds said.

"Everyone should do to-go food" along with regular menus, he said. "It's too big a market to miss out on. People like to eat at home."

Family restaurants are expected to gain prominence because of the large numbers of baby boomers with children. Prices, as well as atmosphere, need to be more casual, Mr. Reynolds said, and food needs to have a healthy sound.

"The white-tablecloth restaurants that yuppies went to in the '80s are finding they need to tone it down, and fast-food spots are finding they need to offer more service and better-quality food. Everyone is kind of going to the middle of the road," he said.

Mr. Reynolds echoed other industry experts in saying that the quality of service will become the determining factor in the success of restaurants down the road.

"I went to a restaurant last night that said the chef would only cook lamb chops rare," Mr. Reynolds said. "That attitude has got to change. Quality is defined by customer satisfaction, not what the chef likes."

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