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Top dining trends revealed

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Top dining trends revealed

Casual dining, healthy eating and shared plates are the top three dining trends highlighted by the Restaurant Association as an entrée to the upcoming publication of its fourth annual Hospitality Report, the definitive guide to the performance of New Zealand’s hospitality industry.

Restaurant Association CEO, Marisa Bidois, says that the way that New Zealanders are dining is evolving and with it, the food choices diners are making.

Wander in and sit down

"Dining always has been an important part of how New Zealanders socialise and celebrate. During the recession diners were ingenious about managing their eating out budget, and we saw a lot of diners opting for more casual establishments.

"This kick-started a trend towards more casual dining, fitting perfectly with the relaxed kiwi lifestyle; get a group of friends together and then, on the spur of the moment decide to go out for dinner.

"This habit is now the normal dining experience for many," says Bidois, "although of course fine dining still plays a vital role at the top end of the sector."

In line with the casual dining trend, many restaurants and cafes have moved away from reservations, instead opting for a walk-in crowd, or only accepting bookings for large parties.

Jason van Dorstyn, part-owner of Café Hanoi says that relaxed dining has taken off with a boom.

"It’s fantastic as it makes the industry as a whole more accessible to more people."

Eat like a caveman

New style food and health businesses are popping up around the country, with many focusing on the paleo diet - a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed diet of Palaeolithic humans - which emphasises the basic raw eating habits of the original hunter gatherers.

Menu items influenced by the paleo or raw food diet are also cropping up more frequently on restaurant and café menus.

Van Dorstyn says: "We are developing a more health orientated food culture than ever before, and I don’t see this trend slowing down."

Javier Carmona from Mexico Group agrees: "Customers are more interested in eating healthily. This transcends the obvious visits to the health food store and has been more about day-to-day choices and exchanging the usual for unusual and more pertinent combinations."

Share and share alike

Adding further weight to the casual dining phenomenon is the shared platter/small plates trend. Restaurants have embraced the small plate concept, either specialising in small plate dining, or devoting a section of the menu to it.

Bidois says that shared plates usually have a lower price point than a typical restaurant main course.

"Small plates are designed to encourage sharing and for diners to sample across the menu. It is a wonderful way to eat out and something new and different for the sector," she says.

Nic Watt, owner at Masu, says that the sharing concept is a growing global food trend.

"Dining is shifting to allow consumers to engage in a community manner across the table. We’re seeing diners become more involved and more inquisitive about what they’re eating. Shared plates makes it easy to experiment and try new flavours and new cuisines in a low risk way."

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