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The Secret Ingredient for Staying Popular & Profitable | FoodPower is a restaurant consulting firm that coaches industry leaders to leverage strengths, create concepts, refine menus & identify opportunities to increase revenue & capatalize on the changes in today's dining out patterns.
2013 is all about being EDGY!
Popular food & restaurant trends that will grow and thrive in 2013 will be EDGY, BOLD, FUN, FLAVORFUL and BREAK A FEW RULES!
Our palates and preferences demand new experiences and our American tastes are twisting traditions thanks to the pretty recent food revolution that has changed our lives. I'm talking about the Food Channel and other food-related media; the amazing, talented chefs and culinary creators who are the local celebrities in every community; and we can't forget everyone else with their iPhonography, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, food blogs... everybody's part of this food revolution.

What does this mean for us? The dining public has become the educated guest who dines all day, at all hours and designs their food as they go. They expect quality ingredients and service - that's the norm - and what will help restaurants thrive will be a focus on creativity, passion, and a sense of edgy fun with no real rules at all. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of dining at one of the finest restaurants in San Diego, Searsucker. The face behind this restaurant is Chef Brian Malarkey, a Top Chef finalist, who has crafted an eclectic menu in a comfortable space where anyone can enjoy a fabulous meal.

First impression: Look at the poster above. I shot this from the window of the restaurant, just off Market Street in downtown San Diego. That sets the tone. Now, it's up to the restaurant to deliver. And that they did.

You know this has to be done well and the team must deliver a great experience but Chef Brian Malarkey and James Brennan's team at the Enlightened Restaurant Group have done just that.  The restaurant is a huge, 7,000 square-foot space with a wide open bar to the right of the entrance serving artisan cocktails.
A relaxed plush living room seating area is in full view behind the host signaling a clear message:  Come Eat + Drink, what you want, the way you want to... all bites, maybe some dessert... NO rules. 
A sea of traditional tables (some 4 tops and some 8 & 10s for large parties) are just waiting. There is nothing formal anywhere, with the exception of the food and the amazing menu knowledge of the servers. The restaurant has all hard surfaces and the space has high ceilings, but still, the acoustics were excellent. Lighting is better at table than at the bar where I sat in shadows. This is the new "polished casual" and the restaurant is filled with all ages of happy guests.

At PDT - or as its known in New York's East Village, Please Don't Tell - hand-crafted artisan beverages created by mixologists/Bar Chefs, take center stage. These guys are so good that they were the inaugural recipients of the James Beard Foundation's award for Outstanding Bar Program, created solely to recognize a restaurant or bar's excellence in cocktail, spirits and/or beer service.

What this tells me is that what started as a trend in the beverage industry is expanding and becoming a vital part of this "edge" we are seeking out in our dining experiences.
Farm fresh fruits, vegetables and spice-infused alcohols are being created by bar chefs who are mirroring their kitchen's focus on seasonal, sustainable ingredients.   

We're looking beyond cocktails, to fruit and spice-infused waters and colas, as well as housemade mixers of pureed, muddled, and infused syrups for sweetening, and bitters for flavoring to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

During my recent visit to Searsucker in San Diego, CA, I observed that individual bottles of housemade infused beverages were standing ready for the mixologists to use. On the night I visited, they consisted of four infused vodkas: Sweet Tea, Seasonal Berry, Citrus, and Six Chili, as well as Cucumber Gin, Cinnamon Whiskey and Buttered Popcorn Tequila. Among the featured cocktails that night was the Peter Rabbit, a Pimm's #1 with bruised basil, pressed lemon and a pickled carrot. Also in the works at many restaurants is barrel aging the already mixed drinks to shorten the prep time.

Bottomline: all these innovative offerings will increase your check averages and lead to greater profitability!

It's all about simple, to the point, decor - I'm loving the clean, simple, edgy signs or minimalist art that fills some of my favorite finds of the year. No clutter. The beauty truly lies in the basic.

Tip: restaurateurs needs to follow trends outside their walls before making changes. A walk through West Elm, Design Within Reach, and other places featuring the latest trends will give us insight into the look and feel of the next generation restaurant.