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Trends you may see when dining out

Posted: June 24, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Restaurants are thriving once again. Restaurant-goers in Northwest Arkansas have renewed interest in socializing away from home and more money to spend, a stark turnaround from preceding years when diners were living on tighter budgets thanks to a recession that began in 2008.

As crowds waiting in line for their favorite eateries begin to grow anew, restaurants have begun to implement new menus and dining styles in an attempt to attract a broader clientele. Many trends are catering to the younger, technology-driven customer.

Photo-ready foods: Diners are utilizing social media to share their menu choices with people all around the world. Scroll through anyone's news feed and you're likely to find photograph's of last night's entrée or an impressive dessert enjoyed during a night out with friends. Many restauranteurs understand that their latest culinary creation is likely to find its way onto social media, so a greater emphasis is being placed on plating -- or making foods look better when first presented to diners.

Digital kiosks: Desire an appetizer or want to reorder another beverage? You may not have to flag down your server to do so. Several restaurants have implemented tablet-based service at their tables. In addition to playing games or getting apprised on the latest specials, guests can order some menu items through table-mounted tablets. And if you're in a rush for the check, swipe your credit card and pay the bill without waiting for your waiter to bring it over.

Healthier kids' choices: For years the standard fare for kids has been burgers, fries and various recipes for mac-and-cheese. But a survey of professional chefs sponsored by the National Restaurant Association revealed that many restaurants are now offering a greater variety of foods on kids' menus. Soups, salads, leaner meats, and more vegetables are some of the items kids can choose from.

Increase in craft foods: Greater emphasis is being placed on creating meals that look and taste good and are produced in eco- and community-friendly ways. Craft foods are made in small batches from locally sourced ingredients, helping to create a symbiotic relationship between eateries, farmers, food manufacturers, and diners.

Community tables: Make new friends while dining out by getting seated at community tables, which are no longer restricted to Japanese hibachi restaurants. These larger tables pair different diners together.

Neurogastronomy: Many restaurants are employing neurogastronomy, or the science of manipulating perception of how foods taste by external factors. Everything from the colors of dishes to the sounds of music being piped in can affect your perception of taste.

Prepaid reservations: Today you can purchase just about anything in advance, from movie tickets to vacations. Soon you may be able to prepay for restaurant meals as well. Arrive at your reserved time and enjoy your meal. This trend is beneficial to restaurants because they are guaranteed revenue even if patrons do not show up.

Trends in dining out can make meal experiences more unique.

NAN Dining Guide Spotlight on 06/24/2018

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