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Smaller Plates, Smokey Drinks On More Menus

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Corporate Chef Juliet Greene leads a session at the American Culinary Federation Convention in Phoenix.

More than 1,000 chefs, service professionals and food lovers are learning the latest techniques, tools and trends at the American Culinary Federation Convention taking place in Phoenix this week.

One of the big buzzwords at the conference is "shareable." Think several appetizers passed around the table.

Corporate Chef Juliet Greene said smaller plates and smaller meals add up to happy guests.

“They leave the restaurant feeling better and if you leave the restaurant overfull, yeah, you got a lot of value, but you may not actually go back because the feeling you had when you left is feeling overstuffed and that’s not good either,” Greene said.

Another trend is to mix elements of meals.

“Bringing flavors like egg into a savory side or we were bringing habanero into dessert, so taking flavors that can cross over day parts and you can also kinda do the  McDonald’s thing, you can do breakfast for dinner," Greene said.

Customization is also creeping into more kitchens. A survey last year by research firm Technomic found more than 70 percent of consumers expect restaurants to allow them to add, subtract or change items to customize their meals.

Greene said beverages are a restaurant’s "bread and butter," and those that can showcase the bar  - perhaps by incorporating smoke and fire or creating unique drinks- will help boost the bottom line.

“The companies are coming out with butcher aprons and cool looks for the bartender so the bartenders have sort of own their role," she said. "Make sure you hire people who have the personality and the flair and not just the mixology background.”

A survey last year by the NPD Group found that nearly 30 percent surveyed said they choose to visit a restaurant because they know they can get a specific drink.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.