Maybe it’s the fleeting nature of summer. Or maybe it’s the time of year when many people visit their childhood homes or favorite vacation destinations, stirring up fond, fun memories that they want to relive or share with their families. Or, it could be the fact that farmer’s markets are bursting with local flavors that come and go so quickly.
Regardless of why, retro classics are particularly welcome on summer menus—and they’re a powerful way to connect with guests and create a smile. Trips down memory lane can take many routes. For the nearly one-third of consumers who say they’re ordering foods that feature traditional flavors more than they were a year ago, according to Technomic’s 2017 Flavor report, there are plenty of ways to add these options to the menu, from the center of the plate to beverages and beyond.
Barbecue is tailor-made for the summer months; from backyard cookouts to hitting up the newest smokehouse restaurant, diners love the flavors from the grill and smoker. Operators wanting to get in on this trend can offer classics such as smoked ribs, pulled-pork sandwiches and brisket, served with all the trimmings—cole slaw, baked beans, greens, cornbread and more.
And what’s a better drink to have alongside some tasty barbecue than sweet and tangy lemonade, a crisp lemon iced tea or a lemon-lime soda? The sweet-tart combination pairs perfectly with indulgent, smoky barbecue. Similarly, for a refreshing drink alongside this season’s classic sandwiches, an ice-cold Pepsi is the perfect fizzy treat.
Sandwiches are also a familiar option on summer menus, and operators can easily position them as nostalgic comfort foods.Burgers never go out of style, but grilling season means more demand for hot dogs and brats, too. And BLTs, with their heavy dependence on peak-season tomatoes, could well be the ultimate classic summer sandwich.
But today’s BLTs might be a misnomer at many restaurants, where items such as fried oysters, crab, lobster, pimento cheese and pork belly embellish the traditional trio of layers. For sides, cole slaw remains popular, while tater tots—especially the housemade variety—appear on menus from the most casual to even upscale eateries.
Drinks, desserts and specialty beverages
According to Technomic’s 2017 Dessert report, diners young and old alike prefer the same desserts they ate as a child—54% of younger diners and 43% of older diners, to be specific. Summer screams for two things: ice cream and desserts starring the berries and stone fruits that turn up on farm stands.
Ice cream sundaes are making a comeback, with elevated twists. From caramelized bananas and fried vanilla ice cream to salted fudge and salted caramel sauces, operators are stepping it up a notch when building these treats. Strawberry shortcake is another favorite, as are with berry pies, tarts and crumbles, topped with oatmeal streusel.
Lemonade, classic soft drinks and dessert-drinks such as soda-based floats are not only retro but a refreshing way to shake off the summer heat. Shakes and malts also have their fans, and of course, root-beer floats are a great nostalgic dessert drink to add to the menu, too. A scoop of rich vanilla and a tall pour of creamy root beer screams summer to many American diners.
For the adult crowd, tiki drinks and umbrella drinks offer fun in a glass. With tiki drinks making a comeback at bars and restaurants across the country, diners have once again started ordering classic favorites such as pina coladas and mai tais. Nothing says summer, after all, like a tall drink with flowers and a pineapple spear. For operators who want to dive into this trend without all the fuss, using pre-made juices or smoothies as the base for delicious summery cocktails is a time-saving shortcut.
For more inspiration and ideas for adding nostalgic flavors to your menu, reach out to PepsiCo Foodservice here.
This post is sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice