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Restaurant Trends for 2015 with Culinary Consultant Kim Menzies

David Boylan

A Little Moore owners CD and Mison Han
Culinary Consultant extraordinaire Kim Menzies.
Photo Uproar PR

Being in different restaurants weekly for Lick the Plate, I can recognize trends as they are taking shape and those on their way out. I tend to be very opinionated on the subject, especially when I see restaurateurs relying so heavily on a trend that has already peaked. I walk into those places and sometimes want to scream, what are you thinking? That said, I found a professional culinary consultant who actually makes her living advising restaurants and in many cases helping to shape the trends long before they hit menus. Here is a conversation with Kim Menzies on what to expect in 2015.

LTP
Your background includes positions at some of the biggest restaurant brands in the country. What did those positions in product development and culinary innovation entail and what were some of the highlights, including your current role at Garden Fresh Restaurant Group.

KM
I have been very fortunate to work with so many great chains both as a corporate employee and as a consultant. The positions entailed the development of concepts and turning those concepts into successful craveable new products for my clients. Some of my clients were interested in product improvement and re-development of their items to improve quality and remove some additional costs. One of my highlights before GF was the complete development of a Mexican menu including the successful implementation of the concept. At Garden Fresh, I was tasked with the development of several new products that were on trend as well as the reformulation of older recipes to bring them more up to date. At Garden Fresh, the highlight for me is working with all the fresh, healthy ingredients to create flavorful new items for our new and current guests. I love that we begin with a small recipe in our test kitchen and then work to make a larger batch for our kitchens to make for each and every one of our restaurants daily.

LTP
Fast casual has been a growing segment, will that trend continue and can you give me examples of some chains that are doing that right?

KM
I definitely see that trend continuing and taking on more of a twist with fine dining chefs creating their own fast casual restaurants in an effort to get their cuisine to more people at an affordable cost. One example is Jaime Martin Del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu taking their fine dining concept La Casita Mexicana in Bell, CA and creating a fast casual concept called Flautas to bring their cuisine to more people. And of course, Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes are a great example of fast casual restaurants as they allow our guest to create their own meals with an incredible amount of fresh, high quality ingredients.

LTP
I’ve noticed chains claiming to source locally when possible. That’s definitely a move in the right direction but realistically, how much can a high volume fast casual restaurant source
locally and still maintain healthy margins?

KM
I agree that locally sourced ingredients are definitely a move in the right
direction and something that chains need to focus on and continue to grow. Chipotle states that they source local whenever possible. I think that more and more chains will be going that direction as best they can in the future.

LTP
Are there examples of chains doing that in San Diego?

KM
It is a lot more feasible to get all of the produce locally in California, than it might be in Illinois in the winter, but at Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes we do our best to pick seasonal items for our menus and to use the produce that is available locally. Consumers want to know where their food is coming from and Souplantation is has made a tremendous effort to work with our local farmers. I have been to our mushroom grower in Escondido and it is amazing to me that the same day they are picked they are being cut for use in our kitchens so our restaurants can put them on the bar as well as being made into our delicious Cream of Mushroom Soup. Broccoli Bob is another one of our great local farmers, where he times his harvest for maximum freshness and quality and then is hand cut in our kitchens for our Broccoli Cheese soup and our Broccoli Madness salad.

LTP
What other food and restaurant trends can we expect to see in 2015?

KM
I think that we will continue to see a move towards locally sourced ingredients in 2015 as consumers increasingly require this. Other trends I see are; Brunch – a move toward a more hip and trendy brunch for a more adventurous consumer. Fusion continues to be on trend both with different types of cuisines combined and spices and flavors combined. Feel Good takes the place of better-for-you, our consumers are adding foods to their diets instead of removing them in an effort to increase the nutrients and health benefits. Ranch dressing – I see this making a come back as it is something our consumers have loved, but now in a new way like our Sriracha Ranch Cole Slaw.

LTP
Let’s finish this off by giving me your top 5, non-chain restaurants in San Diego at any price point…and your favorite dish there.

KM
Juniper and Ivy for the Carne Asada Cruda. The Culotte Steak at Cucina Enoteca. Vintana for the Macadamia and Coconut Crusted Sea Bass. The Slow Braised Beef Cheeks at Urban Solace. And I’ll round out my list with the Triple Threat at Carnitas Snack Shack.

I’ve eaten at all those places and can second her picks. I’d like to thank Kim Menzies for her insightful thoughts and observations and look forward to seeing some of them take shape in 2015.

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