Sunday, March 17, 2013

What I'm hearing

Here’s a download of the more intriguing speculations that reached my ears as I made the airline and hotel industries a little richer these past few weeks.

Cheese is the new bacon. It’s far from the only ingredient to be hailed as the next palate obsession. Restaurant sages have predicted a passing of the mantle to all sorts of flavorful treats, from higher-end chocolate to srirachi to other parts of a pig (ears and cracklings, among others.) But you can’t help noticing how much is happening right now with cheese, the tangy foundation for a number of oddball restaurant concepts (mac and cheese joints, grilled-cheese sandwich shoppes, and, if you stretch the notion a bit, a slew of better pizzerias and pies.) Clearly it’s a major component of the artisanal and local shifts. Good work, cows, goats and sheep.
Menus may be the next area of personalization. Any number of online shopping services now automatically present a list of choices that fit your consumption patterns. Why couldn’t the same be done with the new generation of restaurant menus? Technomic’s Darren Tristano predicts a day when menu boards will scramble and reform for each customer so patrons won’t have to scour the whole listing for what they like to eat.

Forgoing parking lots could gain traction as a green gesture. If you build one, they’ll definitely come, most likely in their carbon-spewing cars. So what happens if you don’t? Will that encourage the use of bikes, sidewalks, public transportation, or, at the very worst, municipal lots that spare more planted downtown spaces from being turned into macadam and concrete lots? LYFE Kitchen, a concept that could become the next Chipotle, is already pursuing a no-lot policy.
Ice, ice baby. Design kitchens, once arguably the old bacon, are being rivaled as a must-have cool feature by the ice bar, a drink counter or common table made of frozen water.  Once, they were the sort of decadent design element you saw in Las Vegas, along with waitresses in skimpy outfits and feathered headdresses. Now you can spot them at airports and business hotels. Can ice castles on Main Street be far behind?

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