Trends & Tealeaves

I think I’m going to start publishing my own trends list, and here’s why: how could I be wrong? If my forecasted trend happens, I’m smart, if it doesn’t, I’m just “ahead of the curve”, right? Or, maybe it’s not that simple. Turns out there’s are fine lines between “best” and “worst”, data and tealeaves, trends and fads, opinion and fact.

By now you’ve mulled over the 2011 trends. Among the best and smartest prognosticators:

Baum & Whiteman

The annual NRA poll of 1,500 Chefs

And of course Technomic

These are well thought out and always interesting. Many trends are mentioned multiple times by multiple sources (examples include: sustainability, small or mini plates, more sophistication/culinary emphasis on cocktails, and my pick for the most interesting, the “celebrity farmer”.)

But what about last year’s trends? Did they pan out? [I know the pun police are coming to get me.] Who looks back to see which of the forecasted trends evolved? Is there a scorecard? Nope.

Reading Tealeaves

Which do YOU prefer, computer or tealeaves?

I pasted a few groups of projected trends for 2010 and 2011, even some from 2009, to compare them. Then I searched for a kind of reverse or negative trend, and here are some of my observations, not rocket science but possibly worthy of your consideration:

  • A real trend is a multi-year evolution, never a single-year instance (for that we have another name, “fad”), so it should show up on lists for a few years at least as it evolves or emerges
  • The lists that differ every year are thought-provoking and informative. But if a “trend” wasn’t on someone’s list last year, it is at the birth or discovery stage. Let’s call it an early-stage trend.
  • Then we have the emerging trends, they didn’t start last month or maybe even last year, but they’re expanding at a consistent or even rapid pace over an extended period of time
  • Trends end when they become mainstream; if they never evolve in some way into a broader consumer application or acceptance they weren’t trends in the first place
  • It can be just as informative, and more fun, to view “negative” or “worst” trends
  • What about “trends” – found on both emerging and “worst” lists? A cursory look of items found on both include cupcakes, iPad wine lists, bacon and its variations, culinary “dirt”…
  • No “Best Worst” lists here, but a couple of my recent favorites are by: John Mariani, Trends We’d Like to Call a Thousand-Year Ban On, and David Zinczenko, the author of Eat This Not That. It’s also interesting to see Esquire’s list for “tired” restaurant trends for 2009 – are they asleep now?
  • Most ubiquitous prediction: the gourmet/upscale/celebrity-chef burger concept is now over done. Well done? Well, maybe.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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