In some restaurants, an abundance of fresh fruit or fresh-pressed juices are available for consumers to purchase for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And because those items are so popular—after all, fruit is sweet and delicious—chefs have taken notice and are taking a closer look at how fruit can be a focal point of the dining experience. This increased focus on fruit might explain the growth of some less familiar produce on menus, such as figs (+7.5% growth year-over-year), pomegranates (+6%), apricots (+6%), yuzu (+4.5%) and plantains (+4.5%), according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor.
This shift in thinking, which can be referred to as “fruit-centric” or “fruit-forward,” puts the focus on flavor and highlights fruit as the main ingredient (or one of the main ingredients) in a dish. Using fruit also spells year-round opportunities to refresh menus and provide the variety that consumers want across dayparts.
Whether using fresh, frozen, canned, pureed or dried fruit, it’s easy to add it to any part of the menu. But with frozen and pureed fruit, operators get all of the flavor with minimal labor added—and what’s not to love about that? Check out these inspiring ways to add fruit to the menu without breaking the labor budget.
Updated apps, salads and shareables
Most consumers eat less than the recommended two servings of fruits per day for good health. Fruit-forward recipes play up unique flavor combinations in formats that appeal to consumers and helps them meet fruit consumption recommendations. As a result, chefs are using various methods to add fruit into more substantial fare. One way is by incorporating fruit into starters, salads and shareable plates.
For instance, offering pineapple guacamole, using frozen pineapple and fresh avocados, is a delicious way to update this extremely popular dip. To help appeal to guacamole purists, operators can consider offering guacamole “flights”, with three small portions of different riffs on guac—original, pineapple guac and a third option of chef’s choice.
For shareable salads or flatbreads, berries are a great fruit to add. Dole Chef-Ready Cuts diced strawberries can be added to a spinach salad along with goat cheese, or can be used to top an arugula and balsamic flatbread.
Adding a sweet touch to the center of the plate
From pork to chicken, Mexican to Thai and beyond, fruit can be a great addition to a lot of entrees. In pork dishes, blackberry puree can be combined with other ingredients, like rosemary, to create a craveable sauce to accompany a pork chop.
And fruits like mangoes are showing up in chutneys and jams, and can also be used in a wealth of Asian dishes.
In fact, instances of mango in Asian chicken dishes are up 2.5% year-over-year, according to MenuMonitor—at Royal East, an Asian casual dining restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., diners can order the Mango Chicken, a dish featuring chicken stir-fried with julienne mango and red and green pepper in a spicy sweet and sour sauce. If chefs want to use ready-to-use fruit, though, using mango puree in a sweet and sour sauce can be a great application.
Because frozen fruit can be quickly thawed and added to an entree, and fruit purees can be thinned or added to sauces, adding fruit to the main dish has never been easier.
On the drink menu
Used in sauces in entrees, baked into pastries for desserts or breakfast and used in cocktails or mocktails, fruit purees are an easy way to add more flavor to just about anything. Beyond center-of-plate applications, fruit purees are great for taking drinks to the next level. Want a peach margarita along with an entree? Peach puree is perfect for getting it on the table faster without sacrificing quality.
The use of fruit in menu development is win-win-win: Chefs like the challenge of creating new recipes with fruits, restaurant owners like the relatively low cost of recipes built around fruit and consumers are happy to see menus offering new flavors.
This post is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods