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POLL: What Do You Care About Most When You Eat Out?

A survey of chefs around the country show locally grown ingredients, healthful kids' choices and sustainable fish rank highest among customers.

Restaurants sometimes surprise us with leading-edge cuisine, but owners and chefs know success depends mainly on pleasing the customer.

A new national survey of 2012 menu trends gives high rankings to healthful kids’ meals, regional ingredients and fish that isn't endangered. "Locally sourced meats and seafood" and "locally grown produce" are the top two menu trend choices of nearly 1,800 chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association.

Nutritious children's meals featuring whole grains, vegetables and fruit also will be on more menus, according to the online survey of American Culinary Federation members last fall. Gluten-free selections and more choices for guests with food allergies also ranks prominently among restaurant trends, which are summarized in a news release and detailed in a "What's Hot in 2012," a 13-page report.   

What about you? Vote in the poll below, and tell us what you take into account when going out to a restaurant. Then tell us in the comments area what local restaurants do these things best. 

Angie McIntyre January 31, 2012 at 10:55 AM
My husband and I eat out often. We each have 2 restaurant food criteria: his, unaltered french fries, (not coated with anything but a little salt, for any reason) and preferably fresh cut, and know how to cook a steak, rare means rare. Mine, the lettuce must be fresh cut, no pre cut, ready to eat, bag lettuce, EVER. It has a bad taste and bad odor,(it's not longer food) and, if it doesn't say butter, it's NOT BUTTER. Additionally, cleanliness is a must but no vacuuming while I'm dining, no reaching over me to refill anything, and if we are seated at the 'ha ha' table, (the one by the kitchen door), when other tables are available, we may give the restaurant one more chance, but only if all other 'wants' are met.
Amanda Kirksey January 31, 2012 at 01:36 PM
We look for lots of healthy vegan and vegetarian options but service is extremely important to us. We like to build relationships with our community restaurant friends because we are extremely loyal and will be back. :)
Michelle Dainus January 31, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Local produce when available, and a couple vegetarian/ vegan options.
Joshua Raymond January 31, 2012 at 05:18 PM
A burger cooked medium-rare. A server who doesn't ask "How are WE doing?" or sit at our table to take our order. A wine list with scores mostly 88 and up. Châteauneuf-du-Pape by the glass. An accurate waiting to be seated estimate and adequate room for people to wait. Chili without beans added. A quick wrap-up at the end with the bill presented and paid within a few minutes. Leftover food not jammed into a small takeout container. No fishy smell. Regular refills on beverages. Lots of dishes without mushrooms. A wide selection of sides to choose from. Red meat. Quiet enough for a conversation. Kids' placemats/menus with plenty of activities to keep them busy. Bonus if it is those light cardboard model cars, planes, masks, etc. that Denny's had eons ago. No upsell. A few extra paper napkins for the kids. Real bacon on my salad. Table-side salad service. (I miss Mountain Jack's!) Herb-encrusted prime rib. Roving magician. Faux Mexican food, like twice-grilled BBQ burritos. My order right the first time. Detailed descriptions of menu items. Tables and chairs should not feel sticky. Coke products. Steak fries - except for McDonalds. Real recommendations, not "Everything's good here". It's the little things that make a good restaurant great.
Sue Czarnecki January 31, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Gluten-free menus.

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