Ted’s Montana Grill may have built a following around its bison burgers, but 12% of guests also order dessert, says corporate chef Chris Raucci. While most full-service chains are downsizing dessert lists, according to Technomic, unique sundaes and ice cream creations are up 35%. Ted’s has jumped on the trend with its seasonal strawberry shortcake. The latest version, running through August, includes a few tweaks.
Channeling the inner baker
Although the execution is easy, since Ted’s doesn’t employ pastry chefs, the chain had to figure out a way to deliver a scratch-made dessert with existing staff. It’s management’s job to identify the “Betty Crocker” on the team—the person who enjoys baking and will be sure to weigh and measure everything, Raucci says. He or she then preps the dessert at a cold station between the open kitchen and bar in full view of diners.
The dessertmaker piles the biscuits high with ice cream, macerated strawberries, sauce and whipped cream. The challenge: figuring out how to get the towering shortcake to the table without it toppling over. “The ice cream temperature is regulated so the scoops stick together,” Raucci says. “And we conduct extensive server training.” The showmanship generates orders, he adds. The shortcake garnered 25% of dessert sales at its launch, says Raucci.
Shareability is a plus
Raucci experimented with shrinking the shortcake into a smaller single-serve portion, but negative feedback and softer sales nixed that idea. “Customers told us [through comment cards] that they wanted a shared dessert,” he says, so it’s served with two or more chilled spoons. Shareability also appeals to millennials, a demographic Ted’s is eager to entice, Raucci says.
Continuing with the seasonality theme, apple crisp is coming up in September. “Since the dessert menu is separate from the regular menu, it changes according to [what’s in season],” says Raucci.