Creating a new menu favorite doesn’t have to be about incorporating the very latest flavor trends. It could be about taking existing menu items and presentations that your guests already find appealing, then translating them into something new. Consider formats like sliders, egg rolls, spring rolls, tacos or burritos – comforting, craveable hand-held foods that can be eaten on the go – and try filling them with new ingredients that surprise.
Covid has changed consumers’ relationship with foods, their ideas about health and their perceptions about what ingredients mean. According to Health & Wellness 2021: Reimagining Well-being Amid COVID-19, a new report from the Hartman Group, health and wellness have become more top-of-mind considerations for a broader set of consumers in the past two years as they have seen first-hand how infectious diseases, immunity, vaccine effectiveness and safety and mental health all play critical roles in their lives. They are now applying that experience to the foods they consume and are approaching menus more mindfully as a result. So what does that mean for restaurant operators? After the greater amount of time consumers have spent cooking meals at home in recent years, expect more scrutiny of ingredients, as well as the pursuit of less-processed, naturally plant-based foods. For example, the report indicates that more indulgent brands that are making wellness claims will need to be able to back them up more precisely – and that more natural presentations of plant-based proteins are likely to emerge as preferred options by health-conscious consumers. If you have a brand that is built around wellness, or if you simply make wellness claims around specific menu items, aim for simpler, unprocessed ingredients and be ready to answer questions about what’s on (and in) the menu.
At a time when staffing shortages require operators to do more work with less people, ready-made and speed-scratch ingredients can be lifesavers. If you have resisted using as many of these prepared items as could benefit your business, consider getting more creative with them. Can you invent a unique appetizer, entrée or dessert by combining the best parts of different prepared items you have on hand?
Restaurant operators need to do as much as they can with key supplies right now, so ingredients have to work overtime. As you stock your pantry, consider ingredients that can be stored without spoiling, will adapt to a wide range of flavors and textures, can mix seamlessly into soups, salads and entrées, and provide benefits for the health- and allergen-conscious as well.
As summer starts to cool off and fall arrives, your guests will start to crave cozy comfort foods like soups, stews and hearty entrées. At the same time, they will continue to be drawn to meals with healthy, fresh ingredients that can be enjoyed as weeknight take-outs on busy nights, as well as at the end of busy weeks. Do you offer a range of options that tick the comfort-food box and provide some plant-forward nutrition or other healthy ingredients?
Who doesn’t love an Italian meal? Throughout the pandemic, it was a go-to comfort food option for people preparing food at home and ordering individual and family-style meals to go. Now that people are returning to dine in restaurants, consumers are showing increased interest in authentic Italian dishes that contain health-conscious and/or premium ingredients, according to a survey of Italian food suppliers on Italianfood.net. Taking a look at the Italian dishes on your menu, how can you offer a more authentic Italian dining experience and elevate the ingredients you offer?
It may seem challenging to create exciting, frequently changing menus using a small number of core ingredients. But it can be as simple as regularly changing up your menu presentations – recasting your fajitas as a spicy soup special, a salad as a sandwich, a popular entrée as a panini, or even adjusting presentations within a menu category. Looking across your menu, take a dish and imagine it in new formats. If you’re hit with a sudden supply shortage, you’ll have additional options to work with if you can flexibly translate a dish in several ways.