Culinary consultant Brad Barnes wants restaurateurs to remember three words: pure, experience and transparent.
“Whether it is a dish or concept or brand, then ‘I get it’ when I see it,” Barnes said.
Barnes, director of consulting and industry programs for the Culinary Institute of America, spoke to a few dozen people Tuesday at the Global Gaming Expo at Sands Expo and Convention Center.
On experience, Barnes said restaurants need to hone in on what experience the customer is looking for and embrace it, whether that experience is a sit-down meal or portable food.
On transparency, Barnes said customers increasingly want to know where the food is coming from and how it’s being made.
When it comes to the menu, Barnes cautioned against sticking to “what you can do when” with food and beverage, particularly in Las Vegas. The city’s 24/7 pace lends itself to trends such as breakfast all day and food with alcohol, he said.
Regarding the target audience, Barnes said, “I’m not talking about the people we have, I’m talking about the people we want to get. They’re about 22 right now, and you’re really going to want them in three to five years.”
One major trend in the food industry is a focus on micro regions, Barnes said.
And what’s the No. 1 food concept for investors? According to Barnes, it’s barbecue, particularly from specific regions such as Kansas, Texas or North Carolina.
Zeroing in on micro regions could mean representing a single dish or using a specific set of ingredients that is representative of a culture or particular region.
Barnes said some dishes that are “rising stars” include finger-food favorites, tacos and taquitos, the Korean dish kimchi, hummus and dips and Salvadoran pupusas. Barnes plant-based dishes also are gaining favor.
Audience member Toni Parkes, operations manager for Oak Flats Bowling Club in New South Wales, Australia, said she attended to get a leg up on emerging U.S. food and beverage trends, which she said often influence her nation.
“The trend of where America’s heading, it’s actually really good to know that we could implement that back in Australia before it gets there,” said Parkes.
Parkes said the barbecue and burger trends were familiar.
“Barbecue is very Australian,” said Parkes, who added that Australia has “really hit big on burgers.” Parkes said she was intrigued to hear at the session that Americans are gaining more interest in bowl foods.
Loretta Gasparini, events and theatre operations manager for the Hippodrome Casino in London, said she attended to learn about new restaurant concepts for the casino.
“Our problem is trying to find things that haven’t been done, because there are so many concepts and so many restaurants,” said Gasparini, referring to the area around the Hippodrome casino in Central London.
Contact Alexander S. Corey at email@example.com or 702-383-0270. Follow @acoreynews on Twitter.