Nearly every full-service restaurant—and most quick-serves—offer dessert. But are operators making the most of this final course?
Simple ingredients can add up to wow-worthy dishes, thanks to creative presentation, menuing and marketing. If consumers are going to indulge in dessert, they want it to feel like a special occasion. Callouts such as “housemade,” “fresh-baked” and “signature” indicate an elevated offering.
Plus, whimsical, over-the-top dessert offerings can do their own marketing as consumers rush to share photos via social media.
The top 10 dessert ingredients, according to Technomic, are basic ones: ice cream, chocolate, vanilla, cream cheese, strawberry, whipped cream, caramel, fudge and brownie. But humble ingredients can create desserts that will have consumers buzzing.
Just as shareable starters are hot, so are large-format desserts. Best of all, they can often be crafted with simple items from the kitchen’s sweet side. Witness the Colossal Brownie Sundae from Buca di Beppo. The meal-ender comes in a giant martini glass and is layered with a dozen brownie chunks, six scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice creams, caramel and chocolate sauces, whipped cream and sprinkles. The impressive dish generates much dining room buzz, and it’s created entirely with simple dessert staples.
Other shareable winners are the towering Strawberry Shortcake at Ted’s Montana Grill, a seasonal take on a mammoth dessert, and the Lemon Blueberry Pizookie from BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, which is a large, pan-cooked cookie topped with vanilla bean ice cream.
Alternatively, some consumers may seek a small indulgence at the end of the meal, so operators should consider offering mini desserts. Hooters’ popular Dessert Shooter offerings are served in small cups and come in Peanut Butter Pie, Chocolate Decadence, Strawberry Cheesecake and Key Lime. At Season’s 52, consumers can choose from a number of Mini Indulgences, including a scaled-down Chocolate Ganache Brownie with raspberry compote, Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Honey, Pumpkin Pie, Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte and more.
Dessert, more than any other course, should be fun and joyful. Play up the whimsy by morphing traditional dishes into sweet treats. There’s the Dessert Sliders at Umami Burger, featuring tiny chocolate brioche “buns” dusted with powdered sugar and filled with salted-caramel ice cream and caramel sauce. Buffalo Wild Wings launched Dessert Nachos this fall, which feature a cinnamon-sugar dusted fried flour tortilla topped with ice cream, breaded cheesecake bites, and chocolate and caramel sauces.
Make it interactive
What better way to make dessert a must-have than to actively engage guests in the preparation? This kind of diner participation drives social media and word-of-mouth buzz. At Lawry’s The Prime Rib, the C.C. Brown’s Hot Fudge Sundae is served tableside while the dining room looks on (and jars of the signature fudge sauce are available for sale).
This post is sponsored by Sweet Street Desserts