2017 Restaurant Update: Can French Cuisine Make A Comeback?

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Le CouCou

Over the last 10 or 15 years the status and popularity of French restaurants has waned to be replaced largely by Asian influences. I recall coming to New York and being blown away by dinners at Lutece, Le Cirque, La Caravelle and then suddenly those classic French restaurants felt old, pretentious and stodgy. What happened? Our aspirations turned East to cool, new places like Nobu (2005) or Indochine or Momofuku (2004).

But now, with the arrival of the gorgeous Le CouCou in NYC (see pic above), the tide may be turning. I had dinner there the other night and had major flashbacks to the Lutece days in terms of menu items and presentation – the vibe is much cooler but there is definitely a classic French culinary tradition at play. I will be posting my take on it tomorrow. And next week (Nov 1), Keith McNally is opening Augustine a gorgeous new brasserie in the Financial District’s buzzy Beekman Hotel.  Will be checking that out ASAP also.

Read below for 5 more restaurant trends to keep an eye on as we head into 2017.

1. Asian Foods/Flavors Continue to Grow in Popularity

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Atoboy

I have a new favorite Korean restaurant in NYC that I can’t wait to get back to – Atoboy – will be posting my review on Saturday.

 

2. Bibigo Fresh Korean Kitchen rolls out across the US

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This fast-casual healthy Korean restaurant concept is establishing a national presence starting with 12 new locations in Southern California in 2017 (they have 4 locations there already).

Founded in 2010 by CJ, Korea’s No. 1 food company, Bibigo offers a build-your-own meal experience e.g. traditional Korean bibimbap bowls. Their dumplings also sound amazing.

 

3. Indian Food Is Having A Fast-Casual Moment

Small chainlets are opening up around the country. Many started in the Bay Area. Surprised to read how difficult it has been for many of these operators to get mainstream acceptance – and that the word “curry” frightens Americans who assume it means hot and spicy. I love Indian food so am keeping my fingers crossed that some of these startups make it to NYC.

 

4. Sit-down restaurant chains (e.g. Chili’s) seeing fewer younger customers.

Chain restaurants are waning in popularity as millennial preferences shift to food halls, food trucks and fast casual (e.g. Panera). And why not? They offer convenience, variety, healthier options, portability, and good prices (you don’t have to tip) and they are FUN.

Last year, Panera Bread, overtook Applebee’s, the last sit-down chain in the top 10 restaurant companies by sales. And I must add that when I am in Wisconsin, I LOVE Panera (the salads are delicious and they list the calories)!

 

5. Oxymodern Contradictions (Source: Culinary Visions Panel and Progressive Grocer)

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This is a MUST READ for all food industry people. Great study by Chicago’s Culinary Visions Panel that highlights the power of contradictions in what and how we eat. The study points out how for every trend there is a countertrend e.g. Local vs. Exploring the World or Healthfully Delicious vs. Luxuriously Indulgent.

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