As consumers continue to seek excitement on restaurant menus, offering innovative, bold flavors is often a way for operators to set their menus apart.
But how can operators offer these flavors without alienating customers with more traditional tastes? One easy way: Menu dips, sauces and spreads that combine well-known tastes, such as mayonnaise or ketchup, with bolder ingredients that pack a flavor punch to deliver innovation without isolation.
A flavor revolution
The case for menuing bold flavor is still strong, according to Chicago-based research firm Technomic. According to their recent Flavor Consumer Trend Report, for the first time, a majority of consumers now say that they prefer spicy foods and sauces. Although consumers of all ages reported a greater interest in these flavors, the spicy-food trend is primarily driven by millennials and Gen Z.
But though it may seem as if this trend has reached ubiquity, with QSR chains such as Wendy’s recently adding ghost pepper sauce to its menu, fear not: There’s still plenty of opportunity for operators to play with flavor and heat, according to Chicago-based food and beverage research company Datassential.
“Definitely expect the spicy trend to continue,” says Jana Mann, senior director at Datassential. “Adding a kick to dishes can increase the flavor and intensity of ingredients, but it also provides the opportunity to add progressive and ethnic ingredients to a dish.”
But at the same time, according to Technomic, the leading lunch and dinner flavors are tomato, onion, bacon, cheddar and garlic—flavors that don’t exactly push the envelope. This means that in order to appeal to the masses, operators need to balance bold flavors with classic, familiar ones.
Making bold approachable
According to Datassential, the versatility of bold flavors make them a natural pair with well-known ingredients such as mayonnaise or ketchup. “Spicy can fit into the menu almost anywhere,” says Mann. “Newer platforms include breakfast, dessert and even alcoholic beverages.”
Mann also notes that condiments are an area of focus for operators who want to offer innovation. “Most spicy profiles can be added to mayonnaise, aioli, ketchup, mustard and even condiments such as remoulade, hummus or guacamole,” she says. “Really, any condiment is fair game.”
This is good news for the bottom line, too. Since most of these flavor-forward dips and spreads can be easily crafted from ingredients that are already in inventory, operators can keep costs down and offer flavors that are versatile enough for a variety of menu items.
For example, Applebee’s offers smoky mayonnaise on three of its sandwiches, and it menus a Mexi-ranch dressing on a burger as well as on a wrap. Likewise, Spotted Fox Ale House, a gastropub concept in St. Charles, Ill., menus a bloody Mary ketchup with two different appetizers on its starter menu.
Another way operators can offer a tempered version of bold flavor is by selecting an interesting flavor that’s more well-known. “Spices can run the gamut from familiar to the more exotic,” says Mann. “For traditionalists, spicy profiles include buffalo, horseradish, salsa and Cajun [flavors]. These tastes are known and can add heat in a familiar manner.”
Other spicy flavors are becoming more mainstream as well. “One spicy sauce that’s having its moment is Sriracha,” says Mann. “It’s being featured across the menu on wings, sandwiches, burgers and pizza. It’s hard to keep up with all the dishes showcasing this sauce.”
N.Y.-based better-burger chain Bareburger allows customers to choose from sauces with a variety of adventurous flavors, from paprika mayonnaise and horseradish remoulade to curry-ginger ketchup and habanero mayonnaise. In the same way, Subway offers Sriracha and tzatziki cucumber sauces along with more traditional choices such as buffalo sauce and Caesar dressing.
For more ways to spice up your dips, spreads and sauces, visit Heinz Foodservice here.
This post is sponsored by Heinz Foodservice