5 Enticing Ways to Use Premium Ingredients This Season
Brunch at Chicago’s Lula Café is a ritual on weekends for many willing to wait up to 45 minutes for a table. What’s most intriguing is how owner/chef Jason Hammel keeps guests guessing with an ever-changing menu that’s seasonal with unexpected ingredients.
He’s elevated, for example, the classic Spanish tortilla. Miniature pieces of shrimp delicately fold into the exotic omelet and a dollop of house-made crème fraiche with fresh herbs add to its visual appeal. It’s a hit with customers, many who order it to share.
One of the easiest ways to make a profit from your menu is to offer diners fun and enticing plates they may share. Hammel, however, advises chefs to think about whether the ingredient adds anything to the flavor and texture of the dish other than its “premium-ness.”
“Guests will accept (premium items) when they are purposeful and above all delicious,” Hammel continues. “Extraneous stuff rightfully gets under people’s skin. Guests are smart, and they don’t want to pay for things that are there only to raise check averages.”
During the holiday season especially, groups will order dishes everyone recognizes. If they really like them, they might order two or three of the same dish. Put an upscale spin on meatballs, flatbreads, sliders and more with a key luxury ingredient, but make sure it makes sense. That way, guests won’t balk at higher price points.
Gourmet Chocolate Pizza
At Max Brenner, with locations in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, the most exciting attraction is the Chocolate Chunks Pizza. The signature dessert is topped with melted milk and white chocolate chunks, and for those who order “the works,” also crunchy hazelnut bits, bananas, peanut butter and roasted marshmallows. It’s an offbeat way to present dessert, plus it’s perfect for Instagramming and sharing.
At Seasons 52, the casual chain restaurant found nationwide, lobster is a great way to upsell the signature brick-oven flatbreads. In addition to lobster, it’s topped with roasted sweet peppers, slivered scallion and lobster-infused sour cream. It is priced $5 more than flatbreads topped with garlic pesto chicken or roasted Roma tomatoes.
Happy Hour Prime Rib Bites
Slow-roasted prime rib is a family affair at Gaslight Grill in Leawood, Kansas, on Sundays when it’s served during the brunch buffet or as part of dinner. But during happy hour, it’s part of the $6 menu for guests looking for budget bites. Slow-roasted prime rib sliders are one of the most popular choices.
Making Veal Appealing to All
Located in Nashville’s historic theater district, Etch aims to keep dishes and drinks clean and simple. That includes the veal and shiitake mushroom meatballs entrée, which is $27 and accompanied by tempura gruyère cauliflower hearts, beet dijon relish and red pepper tomato oil.
Lasagna Goes Wild Game
Every winter, Washington, D.C.-based Café Berlin adds several wild game dishes to its menu. The star of the menu is venison, with it featured as a tartare, as well as in lasagna or meatloaf. While the dishes are unconventional, diners are most attracted to them because they’re on the menu for a limited time.
“Guests will accept (premium items) when they are purposeful and above all delicious.”
– Jason Hammel, owner/chef of Lula Café