Michael Whiteman (with his wife, cookbook czar Rozanne Gold).Photo: Patrick McMullanWe recently had occasion to assay the National Restaurant Association’s somewhat dubious restaurant trends piece. Today brings us a far more formidable attempt — that of Michael Whiteman, the restaurant-business guru who, with his late partner Joe Baum, created Windows on the World and the Rainbow Room, and who is now a full-time restaurant consultant. Whiteman’s trends are even more disturbingly freaky than were the NRA’s but seem mostly accurate to us. Here’s how they break down.
1. “Speed trumps everything.” Whiteman is convinced that the food-service business has to get with the wireless era. We’re not so convinced about this one, although the dream of having food waiting for you when you get somewhere is one we can relate to.
2. “Exploiting the niches.” Seviche bars. Chocolatiers. Pudding stores. Bar Mozza … yeah, we’ll buy that one. Too true!
4. “Nutritional scoring.” Apparently a number of health-scoring systems are on the way, as various food products jockey to protract our span. Whiteman thinks they’ll just confuse consumers.
5. “Innards and odd parts.” See Chang, David; Batali, Mario; Pelaccio, Zak; and all the other big chefs now worshiping at the altar of Fergus “Nose to Tail Eating” Henderson. There’s no question that this is a big one.
6. “This trend may go nowhere — dessert restaurants opened by pastry chefs.” The title says it all. Whiteman, a traditionalist, is appalled by weird savory desserts and thinks most diners will be too.
8. “Gastronomy for children.” Cooking classes and special menus for children? We can only hope this isn’t true. Knowing what foodie parents are like, though, we have to admit it might be. Ew.
9. “Hamburgers go over the top.” Whiteman doesn’t actually think that America will be eating Kobe or chorizo burgers anytime soon, but he sees a “trickle-down effect” already in play, as with Burger King’s Angus burger, Wendy’s Baconator, and the like.
10. “Small is still big, but for how long?” The tapas trend is coming to a close, Whiteman predicts, but still has some legs before its inevitable demise.
11. “Ethical eating and getting the junk out of food.” Less impressed with sustainable food movement than the NRA (who made it half of their trends), Whiteman does see this as a potent trend, adding in a warning about a “potential backlash against bottled water.”
We can’t wait to eat next year.