It’s always a mystery as to what foods will trend in upcoming years, but as of late, it has become more of a science studied by Trendologists. Recently Baum & Whiteman released their 2011 trend predictions, in which we found number four very interesting.

#4 Bricks-and-Mortar vs. Meals-on-Wheels: Food trucks, trawling for customers across the country, are driving restaurant owners nuts. They have big competitive advantages: low investment, no rent, no air conditioning, no utilities hookups, no real estate taxes, no dining rooms or waitstaff, no reservationists — and marketing costs reduced to Twitter and an iPhone. In a replay of bricks-and-mortar vs. e-businesses (think Amazon, a winner; think Blockbuster, a loser), established restaurateurs are pushing for local laws restricting these caravans, probably a no-win game; LA’s recent regulations will slow them down but not stop the spread.

Catching on around the country: Food truck “rodeos” where a dozen or more vendors turn an empty field or parking lot into a food fair on wheels. If you can’t beat ‘em: Look for more restaurant operators and big-name chefs to supplement their businesses by chasing after customers with their own trucks.

Will there be too many trucks chasing too few customers? Wait till 2012.

Although, they incorrectly imply that operating a food truck is simple and carries huge competitive advantages over brick and mortar establishments, they did nail the trending pattern that the food truck industry will grow in 2011.

Here is a summary of Baum & Whiteman’s food and dining trends in restaurants and hotels for 2011 that we’ve have warped into predictions for the mobile food industry.

  • Artisan ice pops: Popsicles are taking on an upscale, global vibe bursting with exotic flavors.
  • Meatball:. Old Italian is getting new respect. Meatballs are gaining momentum, along with other old-school Italian classics like eggplant parmesan and lasagna.
  • Korean style: Kogi, the LA food truck that launched a thousand wheels, has propelled Korean cuisine into the big time.  Bulgogi, bibmibap and kimchee will enter America’s gastronomic lexicon.
  • Tacos with global and wacky fillings: Look for an outburst of outrageously creative mult-cultural tacos, soft and hard.
  • Grits are the hot new grain.  Expect grits to leap from morning food to an all-purpose starch.  It’s part of another trend: down-home southern cooking.  Shrimp and grits could be the dish of the year.  Grits are also gaining popularity because of its gluten-free status.  Look for more gluten-replacing starches like grits, quinoa and chickpeas on menus.
  • New-fangled sandwiches. Last year it was gussied up hot dogs and gourmet hamburgers, next year it’ll be sandwiches however they’ll be called something else.  There are Mexican cemitas, Vietnamese banh mibaos (traditionally yeasty steamed buns with savory fillings that are now being formed as fluffy flatbreads to wrap around banh mi-like ingredients, and tartines.
  • Nutrition trends: “Free-from” foods, especially gluten-free items on food truck menus, and “gross is good.”  Baum & Whiteman say the recession has everyone so stressed that they’re finding refuge in the massive “calorie bombs” that are showing up on menus.

Food and ingredient buzzwords predicted to be seen on mobile dining menus in 2011:

  • Whoopie Pies from a Food Truck? Mmmm! Image from:

    Coconut water, awash in a mythology of good health

  • Bourbon, for people who actually like booze
  • Cucumbers, lavender and  hibiscus, especially in cocktails
  • Burrata cheese
  • Umami along with stealth use of miso
  • Sangria with new twists
  • Peppadew
  • Macarons, not macaroons
  • Whoopee pie
  • Fregola, a pasta from Sardinia
  • Designer donuts imitating froufrou cupcakes
  • Pesto variations
  • Greek yogurt

Baum & Whiteman’s website can be found at:

We look forward to 2011 to see if these predictions come true. What are your thoughts?