Menus are getting some tweaks in early 2016. From a riff on corkage fees to less-than-traditional offerings, operators are finding ways to stay up on the latest trends while also bringing in a few extra bucks. Here’s a look at what’s popping onto menus right now.
The rebirth of falafel
The humble falafel is re-emerging as a breakout star of the Mediterranean trend. The low-cost chickpea fritters hit several current hot buttons, appealing to health-minded consumers as a snack or as the protein in meatless bowls, salads and wraps. But a word of caution: The culture police have their sights set on foodservice. Students at Oberlin College accused its contracted dining manager, Bon Appetit Management Co., of insensitive interpretations of ethnic and global dishes.
Bringing it home
With direct-to-consumer meal-sellers gaining, restaurants are reshaping takeout with offers of their own. Freshii met the New Year with an at-home juice-cleanse program. And last quarter, Golden Corral debuted a $1.99 Take Home Box for an extra helping from the buffet.
In January, The New York Times shined light on this fairly common practice: restaurants charging guests who bring in their own celebratory cake a fee to cut, plate and serve the dessert. A handful of comments on Yelp suggest consumers don’t mind the fees when guests BYOC, as long as they're not excessive.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.