Turning Trends into Money Makers
“When the going gets tough, the tough crank up their menu R&D and make their meals stand out in a sea of sameness. Use your unfair strategic advantage - foodservice operators have long been viewed as the point of entry for new foods and flavors. Customers found out about ramen, cauliflower pizza, sriracha from you, because you know how to get in with the diner and make a lasting impression.”
Nancy Kruse, a well-respected and extensively quoted menu analyst, explores today’s top industry trends with a keen eye and decades of experience trend tracking. She provided a treasure trove of usable takeaways at the National Restaurant Association conference:
- The DIY health food movement. Consumers see clean and free-from foods as the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, with 84 percent seeking more natural, less processed foods, and 59 percent agreeing that fewer ingredients equals healthier foods. The impact is clear on some of today’s biggest names - KFC and Burger King removed antibiotics from their chicken, Taco Bell changed to cage-free eggs, and Fazoli’s removed all artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors and preservatives from its foods.
- The big three ethnic cuisines – Italian, Mexican, Chinese – have expanded into a vast global pantry, including an emerging interest in Indian cuisine. Operators take note: 2/3 of consumers eat a wider variety of ethnic cuisines now than they did even five years ago.
- Sides are front and center, especially vegetables. A solid 33 percent of Americans consider themselves mostly vegetarian, setting the table for double digit growth among veggies like quinoa (39%), potatoes in the form of tater tots (30%) or hand cut fries (30%), kale (27%), cauliflower (14%), and grilled asparagus (11%). Reimagined fries are on the rise, such as Atlanta’s Illegal Foods’ Okonomiyaki Fries, made with shaved scallions, bonito flakes, sesame seeds, seaweed slivers, pickled ginger, kewpie mayo and chili sauce.
- Snackification continues to define the American menu. Almost half of our 24/7 plugged in society now routinely places at least one meal with a snack, and many others dine on three solids with a steady stream of snacks in between. Opportunities abound for the creative operator: Au Bon Pain repositioned their sandwich as a petit plat line and experienced a doubling of sales; STK steakhouse’s happy hour line of sliders – crispy char siu chicken, barbecued pork belly, vegetarian – has proved a potent combination with high-end cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan; Boston’s Pizza flight of three mini pizzas has really taken off; and the Cheesecake Factory, renowned for generous portions and ever-present doggie bags, found incredible success by offering a menu of downsized portions for snacks and small plates.
- Diners just want to have fun. Restaurants, as always, represent an affordable getaway, so imbue your food with a sense of play. The explosion in fun, silly foods: RTE cereals in milkshakes (Burger King’s Froot Loops Shake, or Happy Dog’s Froot Loops toppings); cookie butter and cookie dough are everywhere, enhancing cookies, ice cream cones and handheld ice cream sundaes; and don’t forget the bacon, Tilted Kilt’s bacon bar cuts it thick in varieties like raspberry-chipotle, garlic-parmesan, and BBQ dry rub for $1 each.
- Keys to making a memorable menu: creative, comforting, global, healthful-ish. Watch what campus dining halls are feeding their students. After all, they’re educating a whole generation of new diners.
- Posted: August 10, 2017
- Categories: Trending Now