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Craveability and Customization Appeal to New Breed of Restaurant-goers


To stay current and relevant in this overcrowded restaurant environment, eateries need to maximize value with a focused menu, serve craveable food and give a sincere nod to customization, Larry Reinstein, president of LJR Hospitality Ventures said during his segment of 60 Minutes Around the Industry at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Vegas November 14-16.

“People want exceptional, delicious food,” he said, “and they want customization, not the way we want it for them.”

Getting what they want when they want it is no longer the consumer’s only concern. “They want to get what they want where they are,” Reinstein said. “People want their food as they walk along the street. They can’t even wait until they get home.”

Here are some the trends Reinstein said he’s seeing:

Barbecue is no longer regional. People are eating all different styles of it because it’s a great food for takeout and parties

Tacos are transcending their Mexican roots since it’s a cuisine that infuses well with others. Sushi tacos, as well as burritos, are in vogue, as are other Asian flavor profiles in a shell. Their popularity puts them on both the appetizer or entrée side of the menu. They work as snacks—you can order one or order three and make it a meal. Plus they marry well with beer, of which in its craft form is also hot right now.

Coffee continues to go through many different reinventions of water over coffee grounds (including intro cold brew).

Poke, a raw fish salad with a Hawaiian twist, is another item that’s showing up on menus that aren’t fish-centric in a variety of forms, since it’s an inexpensive item to dress up.

As far as entire cuisines go, Mediterranean is coming of age.

Specific concepts that are appealing to consumers include:

•  Flower Child, a fast-casual, healthy restaurant by Phoenix restaurateur Sam Fox, which features biodegradable packaging, alongside naturally raised meats and organic produce.

• Urban Plates “Breaks rules exceptionally well,” Reinstein said of another fresh, healthy option.

• Torchy’s Tacos, a 50-unit chain in Texas and Colorado, with “Damn good tacos,” according to its website, and arty, playful graphics.

• Flour Bakery, a trendy, upscale bakery from Boston, with classes and a café. The chef/owner has a degree from Harvard in applied mathematics and economics and has written two cookbooks.

• East Hampton Sandwich, where you can find a balsamic chicken sandwich or lobster roll in a fast-casual setting.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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