As current economic conditions make it critical for restaurants to do as much as possible with fewer resources, it can feel like an impossible task to have to innovate. Yet, innovation is a critical reason consumers eat at restaurants: According to Technomic research, consumers order new or unique items from restaurants 25 percent of the time. At a session of the recent National Restaurant Association Show, experts weighed in on how to maximize menu innovation efforts when operators are feeling stretched thin. It comes down to five P’s: pivots, preparation, proteins (and plants), personalization and predictions. Combining existing ingredients in new ways is an easy pivot that can refresh a menu. Your preparation of a dish can also transform it: consider charring or pickling vegetables to inject new flavor into your menu, or freezing a cocktail to give it a slushy texture. As animal proteins have become difficult to source, chefs have had to get creative with new cuts of meat – and also with plant proteins at the center of the plate. Now is an ideal time to experiment with more plant-forward entrées. When a consumer knows they can order something just the way they like it, you can win their loyalty, so consider how you can make your menu feel more personalized by offering a choice of condiments, sides and/or grains. Finally, weave in some of the year’s trend predictions. You can be on-trend but not trendy by taking an ingredient on the rise in menus – even something as simple as a seasoned salt or a spice – and adding it to your food and beverage menu in new ways.