CHICAGO — Interest in the origin of foods and changes in restaurant spending will drive the food service market this year, according to Mintel.

In its 2012 Dining Out report, Mintel said fresh and local fare is one of the biggest qualities restaurant goers are looking for in their food. Eighty-nine per cent of respondents said “fresh” is a menu descriptor that interests them, followed by 71% who said “made from scratch” is important and 67% who said they are looking for the word “real.” The term “artisan” had gained popularity in recent years, but it seems to be falling out of interest.

Despite the economy, 65% of Mintel respondents who have visited a restaurant in the past month said they will spend the same amount at restaurants in 2012. In addition, 12% plan to spend more.
When restaurant menu labeling laws come into effect, 41% of respondents who have eaten at a restaurant in the past month said they will not make changes in how they dine out while 33% said they will order menu items that are healthier overall and have fewer calories.

“Overall, restaurant prospects for 2012 look positive,” said Eric Giandelone, food service director at Mintel. “In spite of the down economy, Mintel estimates that the U.S. restaurant industry will be worth $416.4 billion in 2012, showing that operators really have listened to consumer wants and needs and made appropriate changes.”