The hottest trends in American restaurants for 2012 — local foods, healthy eating, healthy kids meals, gluten-free — are accepted practice here in the Bay Area. Not only to chefs and patrons, but also to businesses that come to the San Jose Convention Center for meetings and conventions.
Check out the 10 Hottest Menu Trends in the story “Coming to a menu near you” to read what chefs revealed to the National Restaurant Association
The top 10 “hottest” national menu trends are very much in line with what Silicon Valley is already serving its convention visitors according to Meghan Horrigan, director of communications for Team San Jose, the management company that operates the San Jose Convention Center, Parkside Hall and four downtown theaters. About 95% of the several hundred thousand meals that will be served in 2012 at the SJ Convention Center’s banquets, conventions, corporate events, and concessions are locally sourced, sustainable, and often organic.
Healthy foods and green strategies: more than a trend it’s a business focus
The produce served at the Convention Center comes from south San Jose or the Salinas area, the meats and seafood from the greater Bay Area, and the wines and beer from Napa, Santa Cruz and San Jose. The breads, cakes, and pastries are made by San Jose bakeries.
“It’s a focus and a trend here in San Jose,” said Horrigan. “From our standpoint not only does serving local foods provide better [tasting] food, it also helps with the green strategy that many companies require as part of their overall meeting requirements.”
A 2012 forecast from American Express says 47% of meeting clients have green request/requirements for their events and 73% of meeting planners indicate that number is growing.
“Local sourcing of everything – from meat and fish, to produce, to alcoholic beverages,” is a trend commented on by Joy Dubost, Ph.D, R.D., director of Nutrition & Healthy Living for the National Restaurant Association when that organization announced its 20 top trends as revealed by professional chefs. “Local farms and food producers have become an important source of ingredients for chefs and restaurateurs wishing to support the members of their business community and highlight seasonal ingredients on menus.”
Special diets also make top trends list
Horrigan says another national trend they are prepared for is the uptick in special food requests. Even if an attendee makes a last minute request for vegan, vegetarian, kosher, or gluten-free meal, the ingredients are part of the standard Convention Center pantry. “We can serve that on the spot if someone has forgotten to put in a special request,” according to Horrigan.
Local, organic, seasonal, sustainable mean better meals without higher prices
In fiscal year 2010-11, a million visitors came to the Convention Center, and in the third quarter alone, Team San Jose served 76,000 meals. So the big question is, “Does serving local, organic, seasonal, and healthy kids meals raise costs?”
Horrigan says no, it’s not more expensive for the client or the Convention Center. When the trucks don’t have far to come, when the food is seasonal, and when ample quantities of fresh food are available in a 50 mile radius like it is here, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Kids get healthy options too
The restaurant association’s survey raised awareness about healthy kid’s eating and that’s been increasingly on the minds of the San Jose Convention Center team as well.
At the four theater venues (Center for Performing Arts, California Theatre, Montgomery Theatre and Civic Center) operated by Team San Jose, show producers are offered healthy options for concessions. At the Convention Center and Parkside Hall, many of the events attract athletes and children and the menus are always adjusted for that.
No room for rubber chicken
No meeting facility wants to be known for rubber chicken. But because of the natural resources surrounding us, Bay Area facilities can offer variety and quality that are only available at small, fine dining restaurants in some cities.
To Team San Jose, it’s about meeting customer need, showcasing Silicon Valley, and having a competitive edge. “We like to consider ourselves as serving the unconventional convention food” said Horrigan.