Less was definitely more at restaurants last year. In fact, three of last year’s top foodservice trends had to do with downsizing: mini food, value pricing and lighter food options (the result of increased nutritional labeling laws). That assessment came from Mintel International, Chicago.

“2008 was an extremely difficult year for the restaurant industry. Many Americans were trying to save money by going out to eat less, so restaurants were looking for new ways to attract diners,” observes Maria Caranfa, Mintel Menu Insights.Here are Mintel’s food-related observations:

Mini food maxes out: Burgers dominated the mini trend. Mintel says 28 restaurants added mini burgers to their menus last year. But mini sandwiches and bite-sized desserts also were popular everywhere from casual to fine dining.

Nutrition labeling law sparks change: The move toward mandatory nutrition labeling on restaurant menus gained traction in major metro areas including New York and Philadelphia. Mintel saw the Cosi restaurant chain introduce a “Lighten Up!” menu with less-than-500-calorie versions of its sandwiches and salads.