(LOS ANGELES, Aug. 7, 2009) – AAA has updated its Restaurant Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines, the blueprint for evaluating and rating more than 27,000 restaurants throughout the U.S. Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Guidelines are revised to reflect changing industry trends and member expectations, with the last update occurring in 2003.
AAA’s Diamond Rating System is the only ratings system that covers all of North America and uses professional inspectors to conduct on-site evaluations using published criteria available to all establishments. With some 32,000 Approved lodgings and more than 27,000 Approved restaurants, AAA rates more properties than any other rating system.
As an example of change that impacts the guidelines, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Approved Accommodation Supervisor Patricia Marenco cites increased consumer awareness of food content. “Many of today’s restaurant customers seek healthier options and are more knowledgeable than ever about food they eat,” said Marenco. “As a result, restaurants are featuring more fresh-made options, smaller portions, healthier kid’s meals and local, sustainable ingredients.
“The updated guidelines reinforce AAA’s longstanding pledge to provide members with reliable travel information through on-site inspections and accurate ratings for the restaurants we approve,” said Marenco. The new guidelines, effective immediately, are accessible to establishments at AAA.biz/Diamonds. The update includes input from AAA’s professional inspectors, key representatives from the hospitality industry and member comments. Broader language is incorporated to embrace the increasing creativity of chefs and owners.
AAA inspectors dine at more than 10,000 restaurants a year, which enables them to recognize and validate trends as they occur.
Ten 2009 Restaurant Trends Identified by AAA Inspectors:
1. Innovation: Greater creativity and differentiation leading to more eclectic dcor, menu items, styles of service and pricing policies.
2. Healthier Options: Organic ingredients, hormone-free meats and smaller portions.
3. “Greener” Restaurants: More establishments employing eco-friendly practices such as recyclable or compost-able containers, energy efficient appliances and eco-friendly cleaning supplies.
4. Attention to Value and Convenience: Options such as fresh prepackaged to-go items and one-price meals.
5. Regional Ethnicity: Increased focus on cuisines from smaller, regional areas such as southern Mexico or Piedmont, Italy.
6. Fewer General Cuisines: Fare identified by specific country of origin such as Korea or Vietnam rather than a broader region such as Asia.
7. Increased Use of Local Ingredients: Menus highlighting fresh, indigenous ingredients.
8. Multiple Serving Sizes: Options such as small plates, prix fixe dining (complete meal with several courses), shareable dishes, family-style platters and bar menus.
9. Upgraded/Expanded Children's Menus: Child versions of signature items and/or healthier options for kids.
10. Diverse Beverage Menus: Selections such as micro-distilled liquor, culinary cocktails and organic wine, specialty iced tea, organic coffee and flavored/enhanced water.
The assignment of a AAA rating of One to Five Diamonds marks the completion of a successful annual evaluation. The first step is to become AAA Approved by meeting AAA’s rigorous core requirements. Consumers can access information about AAA Diamond Ratings at AAA.com/Diamonds.