Operators are winning over millennials, among others, with trend-forward dishes and menu presentations.
Dessert by the inch
At RCB Bakery, a concept by James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal in Chicago’s new Revival Food Hall, bar-style cookies are offered by the inch instead of by the piece. The sweets sell for about $2.50 per inch, so diners can order the exact amount they want, whether it’s a quick (short) treat on the way out (RCB is located near Revival’s exit) or several inches to share.
Beer to go
To avoid losing alcohol sales on takeaway orders, fast-casual chicken concept Flyrite in Austin, Texas, incorporated beer into its to-go business. Carryout customers can order growlers and six-packs of craft beer in the restaurant or at the drive-thru. Buffalo Wild Wings, too, plans to test to-go beer this fall in select markets.
Red meat flight
Chicago’s GT Prime steakhouse eschews the “bigger is better” sentiment of some of its peers serving hefty portions of meat. Instead, the Boka Restaurant Group concept offers 4-ounce servings of all of its steaks, ranging from $14 to $28, so customers can try multiple cuts, from traditional rib-eye to bison tenderloin. It also serves The Carnivore, a sampler of four 4-ounce cuts that feeds four to six people for $110.
Latte on draft
Upscale coffee chain La Colombe offers what it calls the first-ever draft latte, made with cold-pressed coffee and frothed milk. The beverage, also available in cans, takes a fraction of the time to prepare and features a stronger taste than traditional iced lattes, because it’s poured cold from a keg and not watered down by ice cubes.
To elevate the ubiquitous bread service, market-cafe Buttercraft is thinking outside the basket with its butter sampler boards featuring scoops of housemade butters paired with toast. The Portland, Ore., concept offers a changing selection of butters in varieties such as pepper balsamic, Sriracha and orange honey.
Doughnut happy hour
Glazed and Infused—a five-unit doughnut shop in Chicago from Francesca’s Restaurants—offers a two-for-one doughnut happy hour to help get rid of its fresh-baked goods before it closes at 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The time changes daily, says the manager of the West Loop neighborhood location, to keep the deal an unexpected surprise for customers.
As some eateries double down on “no modifications” policies, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab earns service points for readily going off script. The iconic independent menus its signature stone crab in portions of five, six or seven per order. But a server may happily offer timid first-timers the option of sampling a claw for a prorated market price. Verts Mediterranean Grill similarly has allowed guests to buy one meatball, normally sold as a trio for $7.50 to $8.50 as a main protein in its rice bowls, pitas, salads or wraps.
Papagayo, a four-unit Mexican concept in Boston, found a different way to both upcharge for guacamole and deliver a value to guests. For a one-time $99 fee at the beginning of the year, customers could buy a book of 52 coupons, entitling them to one order of guac and chips each week. Similar to Olive Garden’s pasta pass, the coupons target repeat guests—plus they amount to a savings of more than $500 a year.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is trying to appeal to groups of all sizes by offering portions that fall between an individual meal and the big servings typically offered as catering options. It now sells package meals in three sizes: Picnic Pack, Family Pack and XL Family Pack.
Kitchen sink of desserts
To cater to millennials’ view of dining out as a social event, Ampersand Wine Bar in Chicago crafted this shareable dessert. The platter has smaller versions of the restaurant’s main desserts, plus cookies, truffles, candies, chocolates and other sweets—a way to sample what’s on offer.
Late night-only meal
New York City bistro Mimis in the West Village offers a Parisian-style menu for lunch and dinner, but from midnight to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday—aka prime boozing time—the restaurant serves only a spicy-sausage-and-french-fry sandwich on a baguette, a late-night meal popular in France for its alcohol absorption.