Baum + Whiteman, the self-described “world’s pre-eminent food + restaurant consulting company,” has predicted the top 13 trends we can expect to see next year in the increasingly fragile hospitality industry. B+W warms up to its list with this caveat: “The global economic meltdown is forcing profound changes in the hotel and restaurant world. Costly frills are out. Wanton indulgence is now bad manners.”

So guess what’s in? Comfort foods, bistros, and, in an apparent nod to Ren-Fen geeks everywhere, turkey legs. Below are the highlights of Baum + Whiteman’s list.

  • Bistros: “So all those new restaurants that recently were hell-bent for opulence and dripping with luxury will now be part of the cyclical ‘bistro-ization of America.’ And if not bistros, look for “osterias”, which are the Italian equivalent.”
  • Fewer Celebrity Chefs at Hotels: “We look for fewer hotels turning their restaurants over to star chefs. The cost of building these things often outstrips potential profits, and when times get tight, hotels can do without. Besides, we’re running out of star chefs.”
  • Comfort Food: “Exotic seafood topped with micro-greens and frou-frou is out of bounds in the face of 401(k) deprivation, so the old standbys are coming back,” including mac ‘n’ cheese and spaghetti and meatballs.
  • Turkey Legs and Other Meats: “We’d be surprised if TURKEY LEGS don’t pop up on menus around the country, as well as lots of BRAISED AND FRIED CHICKEN—-this time in various ethnic flavorings, particularly from twice-fried Korean chicken chains that are growing in popularity wherever you find concentrations of Korean expats.”
  • Even More Offal: “Last year we predicted a great upswing in innards and odd parts, and this year we’ll see even more. Guanciale (pigs’ cheeks), pigs’ feet, tripe, lardo (cured pork fat), artisan salami, beef cheeks, tongue, neck meat, oxtails … and chicken livers taking the place of costly foie gras.”
  • Fewer High-End Tasting Menus: “LUXURY RESTAURANTS that got away with $75-and-up price-fixed dinners will be unbundling their menus, allowing cash-strapped patrons to control their checks by ordering a la carte.”
  • More Underground Restaurants: “There’ll be big growth in ‘black market’ restaurants this year … one-night-only unlicensed dinner ventures staged by skilled home cooks (and occasional professionals) in warehouses, garages, cellars, vacant nightclubs and personal dining rooms. With ambitious menus, these dinners are by invitation only … word spreads via blogs, text messages, notices on Craigslist.”

I’m sorry, but I’m not buying the turkey leg trend. As Jack Nicholson‘s character says in As Good As It Gets: “Sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here.”

Image by Flickr user corsi photo.

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