Baum + Whiteman has been a restaurant consulting group since the ’70s. The dudes know a few things about the hospitality biz, so when the company releases its annual food and dining trends for the coming year, restaurateurs tend to listen. (Or razz B+W for predicting “tongue” meat would become huge.)

Restaurateurs may want to hide under the covers after reading the No. 1 predicted trend for 2010: New priorities for beaten-up consumers.  Check out this strong language:

Too many restaurant and hotel execs are grappling with pre-recession consumer issues, while people today are expressing entirely new – and more complex — sets of concerns. These concerns might tamp down consumer spending for another five years – and are difficult for hotel and restaurant professionals to deal with. Why? Because what worries people today no longer reflects abstract and idealistic pre-recession issues. Now people are focusing inward. Their concerns are personal, emotional and ethical. For example:

NEXT YEAR’S HOT BUTTONS

Economic survival

Reassurance

Intimacy & friendship

Feeding my knowledge

Feeding my emotions

Artisan, hand-made

Neighborhood, local

Authentic, real

Comfort & safety

Hotel and restaurant people who make a big deal about powering  their trucks with used frying fat, or switching to green detergent, or printing menus on recycled paper may be addressing the wrong issues. Millions of people are in danger of losing their homes and unemployment is still rising; people are plain scared … and they’re looking for a “safe harbor.” So hotels and restaurants should be luring these hunkered down consumers from their psychological storm cellars by (and we’re being metaphoric here) replicating the “campfire experience” – building emotional ties and connecting to communities. They need to audit their businesses based on the hot-buttons listed above … because, we believe, these issues will remain on the table for years to come.

Many of Baum + Whiteman’s other predicted trends follow on that opening theme of consumer fear and survival, including how restaurants can cater to the emotions that surround those fears. In other words, the prognosticators say, look for more sharable small plates, more upscale comfort foods, more offal meat, and more fried chicken. Y&H can live with that.

You can read the full list here in PDF form.