Sometimes, your guests may not be looking to eat what’s new, unusual or on-trend. Comfort foods have their place on the menu too. Dishes that are rooted in nostalgia and remind people of childhood, of family recipes, or of simpler times can be powerful offerings – and can attract a loyal following. Is there a dish on your menu that is asking for a classic reinvention?
At a time when restaurants may be struggling to get consumers to come out to eat, pop-up restaurants have many things going for them: They often incorporate fun, surprising, or novel concepts; they generate excitement and increase the potential for viral, time-sensitive sharing on social media because they are designed to be temporary; and they’re low-risk outlets for experimentation. As a result, they also happen to be made for the moment: Supply-chain challenges are limiting what chefs have on hand week to week and pushing them to pivot quickly and be all the more creative in their recipe development and presentations. The rise of ghost kitchens – and even chefs preparing meals out of their home kitchens – is making it possible for operators to test new ideas and cuisine combinations in lower-risk environments. The novelty of what restaurants can offer through pop-up concepts can also provide the promise of a memorable experience – an incentive consumers may need when meal-kit companies and grocery stores are offering options that make it easier to eat meals at home. Could your business try a pop-up concept – whether as a brick-and-mortar location or as a short-term takeout or delivery option? Consider how a pop-up concept might help you create an additional income stream or test what menu innovations guests respond to.
There is something about autumn that triggers specific food cravings – and its crisp, cool days and nights are perfect for smoky seasonings. On your menu, smoke lends cozy, campfire-like heat, which can appeal to guests looking to enjoy their meal outdoors. Consider adding some smoky flavor to poultry, beef, fish, pizza and pasta dishes, as well as to your beverage and dessert menus for something unexpected.
At a time when consumers may need a little extra incentive to dine out at restaurants, the experience you offer plays an increasingly important role. Your beverage menu can help enhance your restaurant experience, all while helping you boost check totals. Try elevating your alcoholic and non-alcoholic options with indulgent after-dinner drinks, warm seasonal concoctions and memorable presentations – elements your guests wouldn’t necessarily go to the trouble to recreate at home (and in many states, may not be able to order to-go).
The pandemic has elevated consumer interest in breakfast – and not just at what is typically thought of as breakfast time. According to a recent survey of more than 2,000 adults by the Harris Poll and General Mills Foodservice, 24 percent of Americans say they have eaten more breakfast foods during the pandemic and 79 percent have eaten breakfast foods outside the hours of the traditional daypart, Winsight reports. Consider testing the boundaries of breakfast by offering traditional breakfast items – or creative twists on them – on your lunch, dinner, snack and even dessert menus.
U.S. consumers are embracing plant-based foods – both in restaurants and at home. According to a Gallup study, 41 percent of people in the U.S. have tried plant-based meats — and of those people, 60 percent said they were likely to continue eating them. Further, Technomic found that 59 percent of consumers say they eat meatless meals at least once a week, and 33 percent are actively trying to reduce their meat consumption. New releases of a plant-based meal kit for home preparation by Nestle’s Freshly brand, as well as a chicken substitute for restaurants by Impossible Foods, have underlined how plant-based foods are embedding themselves in the mainstream food industry. Incorporating more plant-based meals on your menu isn’t about denying your loyal carnivores their burger or being a slave to trends. Rather, it’s a means for you to stretch your inventory and budget at a time when supplies are short and operators must do much more with less. You can approach this in different ways depending on your clientele. If you serve devoted carnivores, consider offering slightly smaller cuts of meat and filling a larger portion of the plate with vegetables, legumes and grains. This Restaurant Hospitality report also suggests playing up vegetables’ interesting colors and shapes with creative presentations, enticing customers with lesser-known plant-based ingredients and creating interest around them, and to share the benefits of these foods by telling stories about how versatile they are and how they can support good nutrition.