Did that winter seem to last forever to anyone else?

Thank goodness for spring

Ashley Bentley
Foodservice Focus

I’m thinking it did. And I’m thinking Americans are more ready for spring this year than we have been in quite a few.

That means we’re ready for some new fresh, bright, nourishing options on restaurant menus.

Restaurants have been yearning for spring for longer than we have, though. If I can change this discussion of literal weather into a metaphor to describe the economy, it’s been a long winter, approaching two years, for many in the restaurant business.

But this spring isn’t like last spring. This spring feels special. It seems like there is some sort of cosmic alignment of things going right that should, if handled appropriately, lead to some good eatin’ during the upcoming warmer months.

People are ready for some warm weather and the opportunity to munch on refreshing salads, fresh berries, juicy melons and peaches and tomatoes and cucumbers and … well, you get the point.

Craveable produce

I saw an amazing-looking caprese salad on the cover of a food magazine in line at the checkout counter the other day and have been salivating for it ever since. I may not have had that craving in the dead of winter, but that picture wouldn’t have been on the cover of a magazine to entice me anyway.

Springtime, however, is all about produce for these food publications. They’re planting these produce-filled ideas in restaurant consumers’ minds.

Also, the restaurant industry isn’t in the free fall it was last spring. Sure, things aren’t back up to par, but they’re not spiraling downward either.

By many industry measurements, restaurants are foreshadowing a recovery by this time next year. Restaurants are tired of tightening their belts, and so are consumers. People are going to be dining out.

And the final star in alignment — the ever-popular nutrition message that’s been bombarding consumers, the past few months, especially.

Restaurants are preparing for the upcoming menu nutrition labeling law, passed with health care reform legislation.

Consumers are getting used to hearing a lot more about nutrition and are going to see even more when front-of-package nutrition labels start appearing on grocers’ shelves.

Produce is sounding better and better all the time.

So restaurants — check yourselves and make sure you’re ready with the innovative, refreshing, produce-centric dishes diners are going to be pining for.

We’ll reward you with our food dollars and, in my case, basil-filled smiles.

E-mail abentley@thepacker.com

What's your spring outlook for the foodservice industry? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.