As U.S. restaurants continue to explore ways to prosper during these challenging economic times, they will not be tinkering too much with proven concepts, according to Technomic’s, a national market research firm.

Comfort food will remain a top priority among food service providers, but to appease foodies, they will serve it up with a twist.  Technomic’s Director of Product Innovation Mary Chapman expects restaurants to promote more ethnic, artisan, and wood-fired items, for example, as opposed to dishes inspired by less familiar global cuisines.

“If there was a common theme, it would be remaining as relevant to consumers as possible,” Chapman said.  “Certainly value is a piece of that.  Consumers want as much as they can get for the money, and they see value in an item that is fresh, made just for me, and also serving my community by supporting my local farmers.”

Some additional trends identified by Technomic’s include restaurant operators, faced with rising commodity costs, will focus on simple preparations using less expensive cuts of meats and an increased use of seasonal and local items.  In addition, operators will utilize promotions to reward their best customers, rather than across-the-board discounting.  Consumers will also be looking for disclosures of everything from calories and allergens on menus to labor and local-sourcing practices, Technomic said