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3 menu innovation tips consumers will melt for

Variety is the spice of life—and it’s also the anchor of a successful menu, driven mainly by consumers’ continued desire for new and exciting menu options.

3 menu innovation tips consumers will melt for

According to Technomic’s 2017Flavor Consumer Trend Report, 35% of consumers, including 53% of consumers ages 18- to 34-years old, are more interested in trying new flavors than they were the year before. What’s driving their curiosity? Sixty-two percent say they are looking for something different, while 55% say they want to discover new flavors. Adding innovation to the menu can help them explore. Here’s how.

Craveable yet familiar ingredients

Keeping consumer interest high can be challenging for restaurant operators who already have so much on their plates. Yet, experimenting with a versatile and familiar ingredient such as cheese can add infinite and bold variations to the menu.

Technomic’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report finds that 43% of young consumers say they would like more foodservice establishments to offer dishes with a combination of flavors. Consider upgrading a simple pasta dish by adding blue cheese to fusilli for a creamy entree. Add protein and flavor to a simple green salad with the addition of sharply flavored asiago and parmesan cheeses. Have a simple biscuit on the menu? Go bold by mixing fontina cheese along with chives into the batter. Or, like Cracker Barrel Old Country Store recently did, menu a Parmesan-Crusted Biscuit Pot Pie for added indulgence.

Globally inspired options

Operators can help their menus stand out through flavor combinations, particularly when they get playful with ethnic cuisine. Technomic’s Flavor report shows that 43% of consumers say they’d like to see more dishes that feature a fusion of flavors from different types of cuisine. For instance, restaurants can give traditional enchiladas a makeover by incorporating goat cheese with a black bean and corn filling. Cafe Con Leche, a casual dining restaurant in Chicago, for example, recently offered a Goat Cheese Quesadilla appetizer—filled with a black bean spread and served with guacamole.

A new spin on sandwiches

Sandwiches are also a ripe place to flex the versatility of cheese with other ingredients. Technomic’s MenuMonitor found that in breakfast sandwiches, smoked gouda and Manchego are growing in popularity, while pepper Jack, feta, gruyere, goat cheese and parmesan are enjoying mainstream success.

And for lunch and dinner sandwiches, while goat cheese is already mainstream, gruyere is growing as a sandwich ingredient. Other cheeses including muenster, ricotta and smoked gouda show potential for growth. At Max & Erma’s, a recent LTO was the Smokehouse Chicken Sandwich, featuring charbroiled chicken breast, topped with smoked gouda, crispy bacon and housemade bourbon barbecue sauce, served with lettuce and tomato on a toasted brioche bun.

The bottom line is that cheese is among the most flexible food ingredients with a broad range of culinary uses and allows for operators to leverage across all day parts, according to Mintel’s 2019 Future of Cheese Report. With a strong focus on meat on the side and better-for-you dining, people are looking at cheese to make dishes more craveable and rich in protein.

This post is sponsored by Saputo Foodservice