The Chicago-based firm identified these and other food trends in 2008:
1. Superspices are the new superfruits With high antioxidant content, superfruits, such as pomegranates, blueberries and acai berries, flourished on the restaurant menu. This year, expect to see "superspices" seasoning American menus. Research suggests that superspices like cumin, ginger, cinnamon and tumeric may boast more antioxidant power and medicinal benefits than their superfruit cousins.
2. Snack attack Restaurants hope that small portions, big flavors and low prices will lure in hungry snackers. Mini burgers and wraps caught on late in 2007, but look for restaurants to add more "mini" favorite foods this year.
3. Fine fast food Fast food is going gourmet. Popular celebrity chefs are branching out with convenient, fast casual restaurants that promise high quality food, fine cooking and bold flavors–all on a 30-minute lunch break.
4. Grain goodness With the health benefits of whole grains becoming more widely known, certain nutritious grains will grow on the American restaurant menu. Kamut, quinoa, barley and millet pack a worldly punch along with healthy, essential nutrients. These grains are the ideal backdrop for tomorrow’s innovative ethnic flavor and health trends.
5. Ingredient provenance Food safety and ecological issues are causing many Americans to rethink where their food comes from. As concerns over ingredient origins rise, restaurants have responded with more local ingredients, more natural and organic menu items and more sourcing information on the menu.
6. Bulking up the bar Restaurants will enhance menus with more flavorful cocktails and savory appetizers than ever before. Look for beverage lists to grow longer than entrée lists, while appetizers occupy more of the menu in coming months.
7. Classic cocktails Once the preferred choice of Hollywood sophisticates, classic cocktails fell behind flashy, froufy new favorites in recent years. But, in 2008, expect a rebirth of cocktails such as the Sidecar, Manhattan, Bellini and Tom Collins.
8. Mocktails Ice-cold lemonade with strawberry puree, fresh ginger, crushed mint leaves and no alcohol. Boasting the same premium flavors as the cocktail menu, alcohol-free mocktails are a sophisticated alternative for "non-drinkers" and "drinkers" alike.