Customised dishes to become the latest restaurant trend?

If those in chef and other hospitality jobs involving food preparation want to make it to the very top of the industry, one thing they'll need to do is keep up with the shifting trends in food culture as knowing what customers want can make the difference between success and failure for a restaurant or catering business.

And it seems the latest trend to emerge in the UK's eating out scene is the concept of customised food – dishes cooked exactly the way the customer wants it.

According to the latest Menurama survey from market research firm Horizons, restaurants offering food made to order are becoming increasingly common across the UK.

It claims that while this concept is nothing new for certain dishes such as steaks, burgers and sandwiches, it is now spreading to other foods such as pasta, salads, melts, Mexican dishes, and pizza.

“Increased customisation of dishes is something we are starting to see more of,” said Horizons’ director of services Paul Backman.

"The ultimate build-you-own cuisine is Mexican street food, which we have seen growing in popularity in the UK with Mexican-themed restaurants expanding fairly rapidly.

"Fajitas, burritos and wraps all give the customer greater choice, which is what today’s consumer enjoys."

Ultimately, this new trend is all about choice, and while it may cost the chef and the restaurant owner a little extra time and money to deliver such options, the relationship it builds with the customer and positive reflection it places on the brand is usually worth it.

"It is a great marketing tool and puts the customer in control of what they are eating," said Mr Backman. "It could give them the edge over their competition."

The number of companies in the hospitality industry now offering 'made to order' options spans a wide range of sectors.

Fast food restaurants have long provided customers with an element of customisation over their orders, with companies such as Subway and Mexican brand Chilango building successful operations on the build-your-own concept.

But other restaurant chains in the casual dining market are now also joining in, with examples such as international pizza and pasta chain Vapiano, which sells freshly made pasta and pizza bases cooked in front of the customer with a choice of sauce or toppings and pub chain Varsity which offers a choice of ingredients to go into its Pho noodle soup.

Hotels have also cottoned on to the trend, with Premier Inn offering guests breakfast 'your way' and Holiday Inn adding a range of 'build-your-own' burgers to its menus.

"We are likely to see the 'build-your-own' concept used on menus much more as operators seek to offer consumers something different," said Mr Backman.

"It's a simple concept, and certainly not new, but it’s a move away from prescribed dishes to offering consumers exactly what they want. It’s all about giving them control and choice."

Meanwhile, the Menurama report also identified a number of other trends currently being seen in the restaurant industry that my interest current or aspiring chefs.

One such trend is the increasing 'premiumisation' of dishes, particularly desserts, where chefs have attempted to bring standard dishes into the premium category.

Examples include 'luxury chicken tikka masala' at Wetherspoon, 'luxury fruit bread' at Starbucks, and 'chocolate lover's delight' at Beefeater, said Horizons.

Another emerging trend is the growing popularity of 'sliders' – plates of bite-sized portions for sharing such as mini-burgers, sausages on sticks, or salmon fishcakes.

And finally, the industry is also seeing an increasing number of innovative desserts going on menus, such as 'lemon ice cream cake' at Sizzling Pubs, 'tuckshop ice cream cake' at Greene King and 'salted caramel and chocolate tart' at M&B metro professionals pubs.

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