At a time when it’s important lean into your pantry and stretch your inventory as far as it can go, what can you do to reinvent menu items on the fly? The secret’s in the sauce. A new marinade or dipping sauce can create a new and different experience. As you update your menu, what items could get a new lease on life with a different sauce? From falafel to French fries to focaccia, consider trying new sauces that can upscale a dish, give it some on-trend flavor, or offer a creative twist with minimal labor and added ingredients.
Want to offer new, creative menu items while stretching your inventory? Expand your soup menu. It’s an ideal place to incorporate excess produce you have on hand, test guests’ response to global flavors, and provide options that transition easily from lunch to dinner. Plus, at a time when consumers are eating smaller meals throughout the day and on the go – not necessarily sitting down to a large meal at night – soup can be an ideal choice. Offer a small serving for a snack or mini meal on the go or scale it up and serve it with side dishes for bigger appetites.
Stretching your menu and making it more exciting can be as simple as changing up your presentation. How might you add interest to your appetizer menu by shaking up guests’ expectations about a classic option? Try creating your own spin on sliders, serving wings with a new dipping sauce, or offering spring rolls with spicy Mexican fillings.
According to a new study by the consulting firm Kearney, 80 percent of consumers indicate they have some awareness of the impact their food choices have on climate and the environment – a trend the report calls “climavorism.” Do you know how your guests feel about the proteins on your menu – and could you offer customizable options that allow them to make climate-conscious decisions about what they order? More restaurant brands across the country are making this possible. The Kearney research dovetails with a vast expansion of plant-based proteins appearing on menus nationwide, from the plant-based panko chicken being offered as an add-on ingredient to any dish at Noodles & Co. to the black bean patty and egg white breakfast sandwich on offer at Dunkin’. As you consider new menu options, how might you expand the presence of plant-based proteins – both those that are intended as meat substitutes and other dishes that are naturally plant-based? Can you make them shine not simply as understudies to meat but as appealing options in their own right?
About 30 percent of Americans purposefully avoid gluten. Do you have some reliable go-to grains that help you adapt a dish as needed without sacrificing taste? Across your menu, consider where you might offer brown rice, quinoa, wild rice or gluten-free pastas in place of traditional white rice and pasta. Having a range of these staples on hand can help you stretch your menu – both for guests with gluten allergies and for others looking to customize their order with a nutrient-dense base.
Supply chain challenges have made it all the more important for restaurants to support regional suppliers and source what is plentiful, local and easily transported. As you source more seasonal items, look for ways they can help you refresh a menu item that may be popular but could benefit from a new twist. Weaving seasonal additions into everything from salads to desserts can help you add creativity and color to your menu, as well as give a long-standing menu item a welcome update.