As consumer tastes continue to evolve, and as the nation’s move toward round-the-clock eating has intensified, it’s now more important than ever for operators to differentiate themselves with unique, flavorful dishes that consumers crave.
Fried foods—think French fries, crispy onion rings, fried chicken, doughnuts—have long been among the most craveable of foods. They’re now being reinvented as operators look for ways to showcase their creativity with dishes that push the envelope—something that’s resonating with consumers, even as they move toward healthy options.
“People still do enjoy fried food, so I don’t think there’s any reason for operators to eliminate it from the menu,” says Maeve Webster, senior director for Chicago-based research firm Datassential. “There are almost countless ways operators can leverage the popularity of fried foods without offering the same [items] that have been menued by operators forever.”
Here a few ways operators are thinking outside the box:
- Fresh ingredients. “Operators are looking to incorporate more produce on their menu for a variety of reasons,” says Webster. “Frying produce can increase its presence while still offering appealing options.” For example, Blokes and Birds, a gastropub in Chicago, offers battered seasonal vegetables on its entree menu.
- Sweet endings. According to Datassential, the number of fried desserts on menus has grown 6 percent in the last four years, a statistic that can spell opportunity for operators: At Chicago cocktail bar Scofflaw, guests can choose a sweet potato hand pie with cream cheese ice cream for dessert.
- Ethnic inspiration. Global flavors and preparation styles are a natural fit for fried foods, says Webster, since most international cuisines incorporate some kind of frying technique. “Some techniques—tempura being a well-known method—also are being employed as they tend to create lighter fried items,” she says.
- A different crunch. In addition to tempura, operators are employing a variety of breadings to give fried dishes a twist. Webster also notes that incorporating flavors such as Sriracha or beer into the breading itself is growing in popularity.
- Unique fries. French fries provide an innovative canvas on which operators can demonstrate their creativity. Poutine continues to show up on menus—Wendy’s, for example, menued a take on poutine as an LTO last year. Likewise, Mexican chain On the Border menus avocado fries for a fresh take.
Above all, to find success with fried foods, operators should menu the dishes that make sense for their specific operations. “Operators need to ensure that all of the items on their menu are strongly supporting their competitive positioning in the marketplace or the identity they’re working to create,” says Webster.
This post is sponsored by Tampa Maid Foods