I’ve been up to my ears the last few weeks in predictions for the new year. It seems as though every association, market research firm and industry group cast ballots for 2010 trends.

So here it is, Ashley’s top five foodservice trends for 2010:

Comfort foods. People love gourmet burgers and sandwich shops. Panera, for example, leads its category, serving sandwiches, soups and salads in a bakery setting. Panera does it well, with fresh lettuces and other veggies on salads, and whole apples as a side.

Healthful eating. OK, so people have been dieting as long as they’ve been eating. That part’s not new, but more than any other time in our history, our government seems to be concerned with our health. Cities, counties and states are jumping on board with nutrition labeling.

Center-of-the-plate options. More entrees will highlight fruits and vegetables. Americans don’t need meat with every meal, and many prefer produce-centered options on the menu. Even the classic side salad now has numerous entree-sized cousins. At fast food restaurants we’re seeing more spring mixes and spinach salads than ever before.

Salad bars are in. As a result of the recession, people have become more self-sufficient. They don’t mind putting their own food together, and, in many cases, they actually prefer it.

Ruby Tuesday’s is evidence of this. The casual chain, famous for its gourmet burgers and extensive salad bar, recently had a positive quarterly report, while many of its competitors in the segment are not.

Fruit should see innovations in the new year, too. Emerging world cuisines in the U.S. will drive this. Eastern Asian and Mediterranean cuisines are better at using fruit in savory ways than the European cultures that shaped  American cuisine.

Locally grown. Restaurants are expected to start or expand their own gardens and many are using farm brands on their menus. But while restaurants can grow a limited amount of their own produce, even the best efforts only make up a small percentage of overall produce needs.

E-mail abentley@thepacker.com

Have your own foodservice trend predictions for 2010? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.

Food trends to watch in 2010

Ashley Bentley
Foodservice Focus