Plant-based foods had already been on the rise before COVID-19. Now they may be playing even larger roles on the plate as people look to replace lockdown comfort foods with more health- and environmentally conscious options. At a time when animal proteins have been in shorter supply, first try swapping in plant-based proteins in flavorful recipes where the meat is less likely to be missed
How can you best protect your business from future spikes in COVID-19? Recent research from Technomic found that operators are looking for manufacturers and distributors to offer support in managing current product shortages – and how best to stock up on ingredients if future outbreaks occur. More than three-fifths of restaurant operators are reporting product shortages, mainly in animal proteins, which is leading them to consider choosing frozen over fresh product. Just over half of operators said there were likely to switch to frozen beef, for example. Beyond that, there may be opportunity to secure longer payment terms and more flexible delivery schedules as product shortages persist.
Consumers have been missing their favorite restaurant dishes. Are there memorable items on your menu that are unique to your restaurant, popular among guests and unlikely to be replicated at home? Now is the time to let your daring desserts and brunch brainstorms shine. Even if your dining room isn’t open right now, you can remind people that you still serve their favorite dish – and can make it possible for them to enjoy it at home.
In surveys Datassential conducted in June, consumers showed a commanding preference for purchasing meals to go/pick up over both delivered food and meals eaten in a restaurant. For limited-service and full-service restaurants, an average of 63 percent of consumers preferred meals to go, while 36 percent preferred delivered food and 41 percent opted for sit-down meals in a restaurant. As you continue to assess your to-go menu options, consider new consumer preferences and how well your menu can flex to accommodate them. For one, consumers are placing greater focus on their health right now. Older adults who have been in isolation, as well as others concerned about finances or struggling to juggle the demands of work and home life during the pandemic, may have been over-relying on comfort foods. Promoting fresh produce, healthy proteins and high-fiber grains can help generate business as both restaurants and consumers look for ways to get back on track in the coming months. Datassential found, for example, that dishes like vegetarian turmeric-cauliflower and quinoa were popular choices for both to-go and delivery customers. At the same time, it’s wise to continue to cater to groups too, as people reconnect with family and friends this summer but may not yet be comfortable eating in a restaurant. Datassential found that family-style feasts are still getting a lot of support on to-go menus right now, with pizza and pasta dishes, as well as sandwich bundles, being among the most popular choices.
Your menu of appetizers and small plates is an ideal place to test global flavors, experiment with a range of proteins and monitor the response to limited-time offers that have the potential to become menu mainstays. Options like coconut shrimp with tangy tomato dipping sauce are easily shareable and offer up tropical flavor that’s a little sweet, a little savory and very craveable.
At a time when small plates, all-day snacks and off-daypart meals continue to be in demand, your tapas menu can be a great draw. In addition to crowd pleasers like croquettes or potatoes with aioli, try to create some balanced meals in miniature form to elevate your menu. Adding some spice or heat can help too. Options like chicken tapas with sweet potato puree and green chili salsa tick all of the boxes for a satisfying small plate.