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.
Summer picnics are made for pasta salads. Try a creative spin on them by changing up the expected presentation. Consider using large pasta shells stuffed with a mixture of seasoned summer vegetables, turkey and cheese, which can work as a light entrée, starter or side dish.
Consumers clamor for Swedish meatballs. Just ask IKEA, which recently released their recipe for the iconic dish in light of rave reviews from customers. To add a little comfort to your menu, you can make your own version as a shareable, crowd-pleasing addition to your appetizer or small plate selection.
Even before the lockdown, plant-based foods were in increasing demand among consumers. The National Restaurant Association included plant-based among their tops trends of the year. As we emerge from lockdown, consumer preferences for healthy, plant-forward options remain – and are worth serious consideration as operators try to manage price spikes on animal proteins ranging from beef to pork to chicken. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in April, grocery prices were the highest they had been in 50 years, with the sharpest increases recorded for meat, poultry, fish and eggs. If you are given the choice between raising the menu price of a burger and removing that item from your menu until prices fall to more manageable levels, could you choose? Or might it be possible to offer a plant-forward option as a third alternative? If your guest base likes to do its part to protect the environment, promote the benefits of substituting a meal of animal protein with a plant-based option. The Environmental Working Group suggests integrating such protein alternatives as lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu, nuts, peanut butter and brown rice into recipes to shrink environmental impact. Doing so can help you keep a lid on costs too.
Texture, crunch and color all elevate the experience of a dish. Add some hearty starch to the mix and you have a recipe for serious satisfaction. A nutrient-dense orzo and wild rice salad can be filled with colorful, fresh vegetables, topped with pomegranate seeds and mixed in a light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. The wide range of textures and flavors make for a memorable salad and a colorful addition to a meal.