Gourmet Dining Is Set To Surge As Consumers Demand More High-End Experiences

Hospitals, hotels and Universities around the world have been diversifying at a fast pace to respond to a more and more cosmopolitan audience. The cuisine and food services in on-campus restaurants and dining halls, hotel lounges and hospital cafeterias are reaching new heights with more fresh and gourmet options. More than just refining their food quality, these venues are now also recreating the dining atmosphere to be more café-style rather than traditional cafeteria-style. Consumers are now more sophisticated, better traveled and more aware of regional and international foods, creating a higher demand for epicurean meals.
Many universities and colleges are hiring chefs with international expertise to meet the changing needs of today’s multinational students, making their cuisine and food services compete with some of the world’s first-class restaurants. For instance, the students at the University of Georgia enjoy a delicate cuisine prepared by award-winning chef Hugh Acheson. Some institutions have even received numerous culinary awards – the winners rank amongst Ivy League universities and other most prestigious schools such as MIT, Duke and Stanford.
Universities are not the only ones to encounter a changing clientele. Hotels have to excel in food services, as well as location and loyalty programs, to have a chance to attract customers. These attributes are now deciding factors for guests when choosing hotels. Chefs create more entrees that mix and match global flavors and are reinventing comfort food. They are also making their confections out of authentic ingredients that are locally sourced.

Baum+Whiteman International Food and Restaurant Consultants call the new trend “The whole world on a plate,” where flavors from all over the globe are gathered into a single dish. Gastronomically, everything goes: a sandwich of chipotle pork chop with burnt sugar glaze, carrot kimchee and tarragon mayonnaise. This is what is emerging: a multiethnic, multisensory dining experience where flavors clash on purpose because customers are increasingly adventurous.
In the U.S., “wildcrafting” is not entirely a West Coast trend. Molecular gastronomy hasn’t really evaporated, but now dozens of upscale chefs are assembling dishes that look like gardens. Jeremy Fox, John Sedlar at Playa in Los Angeles, Daniel Patterson at Coi in San Francisco, and Jordan Kahn of Red Medicine in Los Angeles are masters of the style. However, some famous hotel kitchens such as Marriott choose to remain classic while perfecting traditions. For the brand, desserts are perceived as a justified indulgence where pastry chefs strive to capture creative inspiration, unique pairings, and a memorable end to the meal. On its desserts menu, customers will find more classical options such as ice cream, chocolate in all forms, crème brûlée, fruits and key lime pies.
Hospitals are stepping up as well with tastier and healthier meals, as patients, staff and visitors are screaming for good food. Most people picture hospital food as mild and institutional with overcooked meat and tasteless vegetables, and Jell-O® for dessert, ranking right up there with airline meals. But a silent revolution is taking place in hospital kitchens around the country, not only for the sake of public health, but for local sustainable food production as well. Organically produced, hormone-free meats and local ingredients are making their way to hospital kitchens. On the West Coast, Kaiser Permanente sponsors farmers’ markets at 31 of its facilities. Dominican Hospital in California actually grows produce for its kitchen onsite. “Hospitals are often the biggest restaurants in town,” says Diane Imrie, director of nutrition at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Vermont. One example is Methodist Hospital’s kitchen, which looks more like a hotel and restaurant than a healthcare facility.
In restaurants, as well as hospitals and universities, options are becoming more à la carte, allowing for a greater variety of food choices. Washington University, run by food management giant Bon Appétit, features dishes like blueberry crepes, vegetarian chorizo and potatoes, and orange pork stir-fry with vegan, kosher and halal options.
Most of the time, universities or colleges, hospitals and hotels do not manage the foodservices; instead these services are outsourced to businesses in the culinary industry. Food distributors create by mass production and use flash freezing to be able to ship to campus, where staff simply heat up the products and serve rather than making them from scratch. This allows hotels, hospitals and campuses to save on cost and time as well as to provide their customer base with a selection of upscale entrees. Within five years, Central Michigan University reported savings of approximately $890,000, along with an improvement in service by outsourcing its foodservices. Universities conduct some research on how to pick which brands to carry on campus: they do blind testing on students to see which ones are the favorites.
More and more Americans are returning to a restaurant lifestyle as they bounce back from the recession, and as they do, they are looking for fun, interesting and exotic food for a sense of adventure. Hospitals, hotels and universities are competing with the existing restaurant sector as the demand for gourmet continues to rise.