While operators everywhere are offering innovative takes on new foods, using new ingredients and expanding consumers’ experiences with flavor, most still offer the classics to ensure there’s something for everyone on the menu. During winter, when the wind blows cold and diners are looking for something to warm them up, many choose comfort foods to get the job done—these cheesy, toasty, saucy, often-carb-heavy comfort foods offer stick-to-your-ribs warmth along with their familiar, delicious flavors. For operators looking to boost sales by offering warm, comforting foods, be sure to keep these ideas in mind.
Many foods consumers find comforting are ones that are familiar to them from childhood or another period in their life. According to Technomic’s 2016 Generational report, 28% of consumers say they prefer sticking to their favorite flavors and rarely try new ones. To satisfy those diners, offer tasty comfort food favorites like macaroni and cheese, country-fried steak, tuna melts, grilled cheese and tomato soup, meatloaf and other classic dishes known for their heartiness. Because so many of these comfort food dishes are ones that diners had growing up, they’re likely to return to them when they’re looking to warm up and feel cozy.
Highlight a variety of soup
When trying to appeal to diners who want to warm up, what better way to do so than by serving up hot foods like soup? According to Technomic’s2016 Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad report, 75% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase soup when it’s cold outside. Soup warms diners from within, and because there are so many different varieties of it, it’s easy for operators to offer an array of flavors to please many diners. The leading soup ingredients at limited-service restaurants are chicken, tomato, noodles, cheese and broccoli, and the fastest growing are tomato and cheese. These ingredients are all indications that when choosing a soup, diners frequently choose ones that sound familiar or have familiar flavors highlighted. Trying to decide which varieties will sell best? The top five most-preferred soups, according to Technomic, are:
- Chicken noodle
- Beef stew
- Chili with beef
Develop new twists on classic favorites
Finally, to gain the attention of consumers who want something comforting but aren’t looking to try something completely new, operators should focus on updating classics. For instance, offer grilled cheese sandwiches made with artisanal cheese and a Sriracha-spiked tomato soup, or chicken fingers with global-inspired dipping sauces like gochujang barbecue sauce. Burgers can offer a twist when topped with trending ingredients and unique cheeses, and baked potatoes can get a twist by using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, or by changing the script entirely—serve up baked sweet potatoes with an array of delectable toppings.
During the winter months when eating hearty, warm foods is popular, operators have the chance to harness consumers’ interest by playing into diners’ nostalgic tendencies, serving up a variety of soups, and updating comfort food classics.
This post is sponsored by Blount Fine Foods