Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Eating Out - What's Your Preference?

Why is it I flinch when a friend of mine wants to eat at the same place, order the same thing and is more than okay eating at a chain restaurant versus a locally owned, creative hot spot?  Am I the only one who reacts the same way to his choices?  His other friends lovingly tease him about his predictable ways as well.

I have asked why he prefers his restaurant and menu choices.  It’s all about expectation. He likes going to a place where he knows exactly what he will get.  There is something comforting when he can rely on consistency and convenience.  Same wait staff, same lighting, same food, same portion size and so on.  Chain restaurants rely on people like him for their survival.

(Being fair, he does occasionally eat at locally owned eating spots but even then will order the same tried and true dishes.)

On the opposite end of the spectrum I have friends who do nothing but choose restaurants by the “eat locally, think globally” approach.  They are wanting the artisan experience or are trying to eat as healthfully as possible.  While the experience may be unpredictable, the potential reward is tremendous food, presentation and atmosphere.  More than likely, the ingredients will have been purchased through a local sustainable food source and the entrepreneurial spirit motivates the owners to succeed.  As a patron of a locally owned restaurant there is the joy of discovering it all.  The locally owned restaurant succeeds or fails based on whether or not they are able to meet those expectations.

In both cases, a restaurant's success or failure relies on its guests’ anticipated and actual experiences.

I’ve always thought of myself as the adventurous type.  Philosophically speaking, life is short and it is meant to be lived fully, with variety.  Experiencing another’s creativity feeds my soul and my tummy. But as I was preparing to order breakfast from my favorite mom & pop café this last weekend, it dawned on me that while I am a strong supporter of the local guy who ends up supporting the local economy, I tend to order the same thing every time I go to a restaurant I’ve visited before.

Light bulb moment…I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum!  Have I been hiding under the veil of something I thought I was?  It’s very strange to realize you are not living up to your self-described image.  Beginning with that meal, my challenge has been to remind myself to live it up and order something new.  I continue to be a work in progress.

I'll end with this thought, being mindful of a restaurant choice and the menu selections will only help you appreciate the experience all the more.  Most importantly, you will start to consciously create the person you aspire to be through your choices.  If only it were that simple given access and convenience and other motivating factors. 

Is there a right or wrong when it comes to our restaurant choices?  Where do you fall in the spectrum and why is that?

Here’s some interesting factoids to get you thinking from the National Restaurant Association’s list of the Top 20 Food Trends for 2010:
1. Locally grown produce
2. Locally sourced meats and seafood
3. Sustainability
4. Bite-size/mini desserts
5. Locally produced wine and beer
6. Nutritionally balanced children's dishes
7. Half-portions/smaller portion for a smaller price
8. Farm-/estate-branded ingredients
9. Gluten-free/food-allergy conscious
10. Sustainable seafood
11. Superfruits (e.g., acai, goji berry, mangosteen)
12. Organic produce
13. Culinary cocktails (e.g., savory, fresh ingredients)
14. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
15. Nutrition/health
16. Simplicity/back to basics
17. Regional ethnic cuisine
18. Nontraditional fish (e.g., branzino, Arctic char, barramundi)
19. Newly fabricated cuts of meat (e.g., Denver steak, pork flatiron, Petite Tender)
20. Fruit/vegetable children's side items

1 comment:

  1. Love this Sylvia. Made me think..when I've got a rare date night, or dinner out with a girlfriend, I like to try a place I've never been before - often international to make up for the fact that I don't get to travel as much as I used to. But when I'm with a group of people or with kiddos, the tried and true are my best friend. It's a balance of adventure, convenience and keeping my sanity.


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