According to Restaurants and Institutions, “The big theme shaping chain menus in 2009 is the drive to help diners tighten their belts, both literally and figuratively.”

“Value-priced options, smaller portions, snacks and more-healthful choices—trends that gained momentum last year in response to the economic crisis, a growing interest in grazing and Americans’ increasing health-consciousness—remain top priority on chain menus. Every month, new menu items that cater to these trends debut, from 99-cent BBQ Chicken Sliders at Costa Mesa, Calif.-based El Pollo Loco and snackable Bagel Poppers at Lakewood, Colo.-based Einstein Bros. Bagels and Noah’s Bagels to the Fresh & Fit menu at Irvine, Calif.-based Mimi’s Cafe.”

“Yet looming over all menu-innovation decisions for Top 400 companies and other chains is the knowledge that consumers want more say in their dining experiences. Diners are looking for restaurants that will give them what they want to eat and drink, whenever they want to have it and at a price they’re willing to pay,” the story said.

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