“Health trends will keep produce on the frontline for restaurant menus,” Reinauer said.
He looks for a shift to more menus featuring produce-based entrees. Fresh, local and “ingredients with a story” are important at high-end dining establishments, Reinauer said.
The locally grown trend is visible in foodservice in the Phoenix area, said Barry Zwillinger, partner in Legend Distributing. Some buyers are aggressively seeking locally grown produce for their menus, he said.
If the food is not local, it’s likely to be fresh and seasonal, Reinauer said. Local and fresh are tied together in many consumers’ minds because they expect local produce to be fresher.
Itule said Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Seasons 52 offer good value and service, which has enabled their success in a recessionary market. Reinauer also said he thinks the restaurants that offer high-quality products and good service were able to stay open and busy. Midscale restaurants that provide good value seem to be doing especially well in Phoenix.
Reinauer said specialty burger places that offer fresh items, including fresh-cut fries and fresh toppings such as avocados, lettuce and chili peppers, are doing well.
In August, The Arizona Republic interviewed one restaurateur, David Doty, who had plans to build 30 Smashburger restaurants in the Phoenix area.
Other upscale burger joints in Phoenix are Burger Studio and The Grind. The Grind’s website, www.thegrindaz.com, says it serves the freshest ingredients, including organic meat and vegetables, when they are available.