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Delight Customers with Seasonal, Healthy Sides

Maple Roasted Squash Mashed Potatoes

When rolling out seasonal offerings, don’t stop at entrees. Sides are ripe for seasonal makeovers, and consumers are clamoring for healthy fall flavors.

Seasonal flavors, which signal freshness and quality, particularly appeal to women and younger consumers. Some 45% of women aged 25 to 34 say their flavor preferences change seasonally, according to a recent Technomic Flavor Consumer Trend Report. What’s more, just over half (53%) of consumers would like restaurants to offer more new and unique flavors in seasonal dishes and 30% of consumers are more interested in seasonal fall foods and beverages than they were in 2014, the report says.

Operators are paying attention. They’re adding a host of compelling, craveable sides to fall menus. Shake up traditional side offerings by reconsidering seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as well as autumnal grains like farro. These plate accompaniments are big on comfort, but they also rely heavily on fresh, seasonal ingredients:

The humble cauliflower is making a big menu splash this fall. Healthy-eating chain Sweetgreen introduced a Curry Cauliflower dish and Hard Rock Cafe rolled out a limited-time vegetarian menu. It includes Cauliflower “Wings” made with crispy Buffalo-style cauliflower with blue cheese, celery and carrot sticks. Many of the new menu items can be prepared vegan as well.

Winter squash makes for a comforting, velvety side offering. Il Fornaio’s limited-time menu features a Zuppa di Porcini, Patate e Zucca, a butternut squash soup with potatoes, porcini and button mushrooms, garnished with Asiago croutons.

Chick-fil-A is testing grain bowls in select markets, including the seasonally appropriate Harvest Kale & Grain Bowl with red and white quinoa, farro, butternut squash, apples, kale, dried cherries, goat and feta cheese, roasted nuts and a light balsamic vinaigrette. The grain bowl can be served as a side or light meal, or optional chicken can be added.

The new Farm-to-Wok menu at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro includes Wok-Charred Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower Tempura, taking full advantage of seasonal vegetables while preparing them in an indulgent, comforting style for fall.

This post is sponsored by Basic American Foods

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