Breakfast foods mean comfort – and who doesn’t want more of that right now? They’re also versatile. Many breakfast dishes can be tweaked into satisfying weeknight meals by adding some heat or global flavor, switching up the proteins or testing new presentations.
Salads have come a long way. No one expects a plate of homogeneous greens anymore – salads have evolved to include everything from nuts to herbs to a rainbow of fruits and vegetables prepared in a myriad of ways. And yes, salads can even qualify as comfort food when you include some craveable components (soft pretzels, anyone?). The potential combinations of colors, textures and constructions can inspire chefs and make for Instagram-worthy presentations. What can you dream up?
Reusables are on the rise, if the latest news from McDonald’s and Starbucks is any indication. The brands are backing a pilot program called the NextGen Cup Challenge, which involves developing reusable plastic cups with trackable QR codes or RFID chips. Bloomberg reports that the cups are intended to be returned by customers, cleaned and then reused in an effort to take a large bite out of the billions of plastic-lined paper cups discarded by customers of the two brands each year. Is there opportunity for returnable, reusable cups, plates and utensils in your operation? A number of brands – large and small – are providing models for how it can be done. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the 40-unit fast-casual brand Just Salad has offered a reusable bowl program for close to 15 years – guests who choose their reusable bowls get a free topping on their salad each time. (The brand recently launched a sustainability initiative that rivals those of much larger brands.) It remains to be seen if such incentives will become necessary as restaurants offer more reusable items. Other chains are taking different approaches: The Counter reports that the fast-casual brand Dig, which estimates that 80 percent of its business is take-away, recently launched a program called Canteen. Enrolled guests install a smartphone app and pay $3 each month for a hard reusable bowl that they can return to Dig for washing (and subsequent refilling).
Want to add some excitement to your brunch menu? Eggs – in all of their forms – provide a solid foundation for a wide range of spicy combinations, from Shakshuka to huevos rancheros. Even classics like Eggs Benedict can benefit from some experimentation. Try a Chilaquiles Eggs Benedict topped with a green chili Hollandaise sauce. It’s crowd-pleasing comfort food.
Like the proteins you offer on your menu, your milk options may be evolving too. Whether from dietary intolerances or growing ethical awareness, consumers are turning away from cow’s milk – or are at least open to plant-based alternatives. A Cargill survey found that as many as half of U.S. dairy consumers also consume plant-based alternatives – with nearly half of respondents believing a balanced diet doesn’t need dairy. But vegetarian milk options – which currently range from soy to coconut to almond to oat and beyond – aren’t without their problems. If your clientele is environmentally conscious, consider this report from The Guardian, which provides a rundown of the pros and cons of the plant-based milks widely available now – with oat milk coming out on top.
Looking for a new addition to your entrée menu? Take some cues from popular appetizers. You can piggyback on consumers’ interest in little plates and snackable items – all while working with a foundation that is time-tested and guest-approved. Bruschetta is one example. Reinvent it with added protein and melted mozzarella and you have a new dish that manages to be as accessible as a classic appetizer.
Chances are you have more guests asking to forgo the bread on sandwiches and wraps these days, whether to accommodate a food sensitivity or in an aim to consume fewer processed foods. Lettuce wraps have become a go-to substitute – and when packed with the right combinations of protein, spices and condiments as fillings, they can lend texture, color and crunch to a dish, all while helping guests eat their veggies.