At a time when it has become all too clear how critical it is to look after our health, consumers are looking for new ways to protect it in delicious ways. Show them how kale can help! It is one of the most nutrient-dense foods around and can promote heart health, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation and stress, among other benefits. While its tough texture and bitterness can detract from its appeal for some, it’s all about the preparation and surrounding ingredients. The strong, tangy taste of Asian dressings and seasonings are an ideal complement. Add some grilled shrimp for a complete meal that’s not only nutritious but flavor-packed too.
Who doesn’t need a little comfort right now? It’s a good time to offer classic comfort foods with adaptations that make them yours. Mac and cheese may be the quintessential comfort food, and this dish, with the addition of chorizo, beans and bell peppers, makes for a complete meal with a little kick.
Is there anything cauliflower can’t do? Beyond serving as a substitute for flour in pizza crust and as a nutrient-rich replacement for rice and potatoes, cauliflower also works well as a filling in a range of recipes. Its texture helps with the adherence of marinades and seasonings, while its mild flavor allows other ingredients to shine.
At a time when so many people are separated from extended family members, reminders of home can be a comfort. Try a menu addition like Casarecce, a traditional pasta shape from Sicily, which gets its name from the Italian word “casereccio,” meaning “homemade.” It’s a short noodle that has a homemade texture and curves in on itself, helping it hold on to sauces and marinades. This variety from Barilla is made from chickpeas, a good alternative for gluten-free customers. Consider combining it with chicken, vegetables and lime vinaigrette for a nutritious, complete meal that delivers the satisfaction of a traditional pasta dish.
Many operators are reworking their business models right now in an effort to keep business going while people are quarantined. Even restaurants that are providing meals through takeout and delivery are branching out and offering a menu of meal boxes that contain various combinations of seafood, meat, produce and appetizers. This approach can tick a number of boxes (and it is the first item suggested in a recent report from FSR Magazine about tactics restaurants should be implementing right now): Meal boxes allow operators to sell larger packages of food at higher price points and with fewer customer interactions, appeal to couples or families who are quarantined together and crave quality meals, help keep suppliers going in these unstable times, demonstrate a restaurant’s values and brand, and reinforce connections with customers. At the UK-based restaurant Little French, operators are offering boxes full of local fruit and vegetables that promote their support of local suppliers, as well as boxes of various cuts of meat and seafood – along with a recipe – to demonstrate the care they put into the preparation of their menu ingredients. To sweeten the deal, they sell home-baked bread, suggest different bottles of wine that complement each box, and offer other specialty items like olive oil, vinegars, cured meats and olives. For those looking for an interactive cooking experience – or a little help with restaurant-style preparation – the restaurant’s chef will be posting videos of himself preparing dishes that use the ingredients in each box. How can you box up the best parts of your brand to keep business flowing right now?
In stressful times, people tend to consume food that falls into two major categories: Nutrient-dense options that help strengthen and sustain, and foods that bring comfort. Churros are not only great comfort foods – they also bring international flair to your menu and provide a blank slate for a wide variety of sweet and savory flavor combinations. Depending on the seasonings and presentations you choose, churros can round out your dessert or appetizer menu.
Looking to bring more plant-based dishes onto your menu? If you try reinventing classic comfort foods with flavorful combinations of vegetables in place of meat, you can appeal to vegetarians and flexitarians alike. Consider using eggplant in place of the animal protein for tasty “meatballs.
Breakfast foods mean comfort – and who doesn’t want more of that right now? They’re also versatile. Many breakfast dishes can be tweaked into satisfying weeknight meals by adding some heat or global flavor, switching up the proteins or testing new presentations.
Salads have come a long way. No one expects a plate of homogeneous greens anymore – salads have evolved to include everything from nuts to herbs to a rainbow of fruits and vegetables prepared in a myriad of ways. And yes, salads can even qualify as comfort food when you include some craveable components (soft pretzels, anyone?). The potential combinations of colors, textures and constructions can inspire chefs and make for Instagram-worthy presentations. What can you dream up?
Reusables are on the rise, if the latest news from McDonald’s and Starbucks is any indication. The brands are backing a pilot program called the NextGen Cup Challenge, which involves developing reusable plastic cups with trackable QR codes or RFID chips. Bloomberg reports that the cups are intended to be returned by customers, cleaned and then reused in an effort to take a large bite out of the billions of plastic-lined paper cups discarded by customers of the two brands each year. Is there opportunity for returnable, reusable cups, plates and utensils in your operation? A number of brands – large and small – are providing models for how it can be done. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the 40-unit fast-casual brand Just Salad has offered a reusable bowl program for close to 15 years – guests who choose their reusable bowls get a free topping on their salad each time. (The brand recently launched a sustainability initiative that rivals those of much larger brands.) It remains to be seen if such incentives will become necessary as restaurants offer more reusable items. Other chains are taking different approaches: The Counter reports that the fast-casual brand Dig, which estimates that 80 percent of its business is take-away, recently launched a program called Canteen. Enrolled guests install a smartphone app and pay $3 each month for a hard reusable bowl that they can return to Dig for washing (and subsequent refilling).