Five chain-restaurant trends that should continue in 2013
2. Gently Thai-d up.
The vibrant, exotic and semi-familiar flavors of Thai cuisine have finally diffused into chain restaurants, and although the nature of chains is to dilute and Americanize, the bigger-picture benefit is keeping customers from boring, recycled meals while giving them gentle tastes until their palates can handle the full-on flavor spectrum of Thai food proper. All that is a fancy way of saying baby steps -- and the longer that Thai spices and ingredients are included in mainstream dishes, the easier it will be for the strong aromatics and spicy chiles to grow on customers. If the Thai fusion trend continues, then dried shrimp, green papaya, rice vinegar, sriracha, fermented soy beans and red curry will be familiar sights and flavors -- at full strength.
Sometimes taking risks -- calculated, of course -- can pay off big-time, and proof of that is the Doritos Locos taco from Taco Bell. The company took a risk that drive-thru diners would warm to the idea of eating taco innards stuffed inside of a cheesy-powdered shell -- with a color that does not exist anywhere in nature -- in the midst of all the buzz about locally-sourced, nutritious, farm-to-fork yada-hooey, but diners really, really have, with cheesy, greasy gusto. This taco yanked the Bell out of a serious sales slump, and Cool Ranch Doritos Locos tacos could keep Taco Bell beefy into 2014. Diners don't always appreciate batty food combinations, but they sure love this one.