Restaurants Adapt to Meet Shifts in Consumer Demand: Low Carb Menus, Seasonal Selections & Global Cuisine

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, June 21, 2004 - Fewer diet movements have caught the imagination or stirred as much emotional debate as the Atkins diet has in America. Food manufacturers, supermarkets, restaurants and industry groups like the Idaho Potato Commission, have all been affected and reactions range from product reformulations to dedicated carb-free aisles to revamped marketing campaigns.

On a parallel track with the carb movement, ethnic cuisine has continued to gain in popularity and there has been an explosion in this country of establishments dedicated to offering ethnic foods from across the globe. In addition, food experts continue to recommend that individuals seek fresh and seasonal foods in their meal planning and the industry has responded enthusiastically.

Low-Carb Dining & The Idaho Potato Commission's Response
There has been much discussion and attention surrounding the fast food industry's addition of low carb menu items. Restaurants as well have answered the call for low carb dining options and menus have been adapted accordingly.
The effect on affected industries - like pasta and bread manufacturers - has been swift. On the potato front, while the Idaho Potato Commission is dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle to consumers, it recognizes that America faces a huge obesity issue that isn't going away soon. However, the IPC has never understood or supported a diet that advocates the elimination of any major food group. As such, the IPC is partnering with healthy lifestyle advocate Denise Austin (of Lifetime Network's "Denise Austin's Daily Workout") to communicate the benefits of a balanced diet, including complex carbohydrates that fuel a working body.

More recently, the IPC was glad to hear last month's (May 2004) medical reports finding that low carb diets appear to be on similar footing as numerous other commercial diets: effective for temporary trimming, but unproven as a method for reducing weight-related risks over a lifetime.  Now healthy-minded individuals can continue to enjoy vegetables, like Idaho Potatoes, without experiencing the angst of whether the carbs are "good" or "bad."

Global Cuisine & Other Trends
It used to be that good ethnic restaurants would be tucked away in town or city areas with pockets of ethnic populations. Chinese restaurants in downtown New York City, for instance, attracted Asian food lovers for years and still do. Today, however, chances are that excellent Chinese cuisine establishments may be located uptown or across town - in response to consumer demand.

Americans' sense of "cuisine appreciation" is more refined than ever before and the industry is responding resoundingly.

According to Bon Appetit's "6th Annual Reader Survey," its food savvy readers picked Italian (60%), French (33%), New American (32%) and Mexican (25%) in the "Best Spot to Nosh" category.

And, it seems that America's interest in foreign foods isn't relegated to out of home dining, it's permeated the home kitchen too. When asked "Which cuisines do you cook?" a whopping 94% answered Italian, followed by 79% Mexican, 61% Chinese, 57% Southwestern tied with 57% French.

Seasonal & Regional Foods Reign
Back in the old days a menu was a menu and it stayed that way for a long, long time. That was then, this is now and restaurants and chefs are much more flexible and daring. Sure, a menu will have the standard favorites, but fresh fish or home cured meats adds a refreshing reminder of the season or the region.

Today chefs strive to use local foods in their menu planning and if something is needed that can't be found - say fresh salmon -- anything can be arranged. It used to be that only the top tier of restaurants in the country could afford to fly fresh ingredients in - that is no longer true. Thanks to enhanced communication channels and refined transportation methods, restaurants in the know are plugged in to reputable suppliers who can deliver items quickly, safely and affordably. The new millennium diner has very high and exacting standards and while the old standbys are always good, sometimes something different is called for and restaurants have answered the call.