Customization is a draw for build-your-own burrito concepts, but fully assembled, limited-time offers can generate return business, says Mike Monroe, director of operations for 15-unit Blue Coast Burrito. “They show our regulars that there’s something unexpected, something new, for them to try,” he says. Menu Auditions, as Blue Coast calls its LTOs, debut seasonally and help set apart the regional chain from national competitors such as Chipotle. A recent Hawaiian Burrito “tryout” was so successful, it’s set to return for a repeat performance.
1. Hawaii is hot
Hawaiian cuisine will be impacting menus in 2016, according to trend predictions from the Sterling-Rice Group and Andrew Freeman & Co. It’s a fascinating cross-cultural cuisine that encompasses several trends, including tropical flavors, regional Asian influences and bowl food, says SRG’s culinary director, Kara Nielsen. Blue Coast interpreted the trend by combining pork, mango and pineapple in its latest burrito.
2. Employees spice it up
The burrito cross-utilizes the chain’s housemade carnitas, cooked daily for Blue Coast’s build-your-own items. For the next layer, Monroe polled Blue Coast’s millennial employees to get their flavor preferences. “They all asked for bold and spicy,” he says. He decided to try ghost-pepper cheese—an on-trend product and new SKU.
3. A turn on the griddle
With the cheese added, the burrito is thrown on the flat-top grill for 30 seconds. “We usually just steam our burritos, but griddling gives this one the unique twist of a crispy exterior,” says Monroe. Guests also appreciate seeing their food cooked fresh to order, he adds.
4. Tropical cool down
To mellow the ghost peppers, the team developed a mango-pineapple glaze. It’s made with frozen mango slices—another new SKU—and other ingredients, including pineapple, already in house. The fruit glaze, poured over the burrito, adds flavor and temperature contrast.
Of all the Menu Auditions Blue Coast launched in 2015, sales were strongest for the Hawaiian Burrito, so the LTO will come back next summer. Relying once again on employee input, Monroe is introducing a Buffalo Sauce Tofu Taco in 2016. And “since we consider ourselves a ‘surf-Mex’ concept, a taco featuring scallops and jalapeno pesto also is in the works,” he says.