Comfort foods making a comeback on restaurant menus

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Diners sitting down for a restaurant meal aren’t always looking to try something new. Instead, many are preferring to seek out flavors and formats they’re familiar with—foods they already know and love. Meals that cater to homestyle nostalgia, such as casseroles, pasta dishes and barbecue options, are proving to be hot sellers in many restaurants and a surefire win for restaurant operators ranging from casual dining to family-style eateries and beyond.

Comfort food in the center of the plate

Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Beef and Pork report found that 44% of younger consumers and 32% of older consumers say that they consider pork a comfort food. And with its ability to be featured in dishes ranging from barbecued pork sandwiches to ribs, this means there’s a wide variety of opportunities for chefs to flex their creativity when incorporating barbecue on their menus. Technomic’s Beef & Pork report finds that barbecue pork is the more preferred pork entrée on restaurant menus, so menuing options like Gold Finger Braised Ribs — smoked and braised ribs slathered with Sweet Baby Ray’s Golden Mustard Barbecue Sauce — is sure to be well-received by customers.

To double down on comfort foods, consider serving Barbecue-tine, a platter of French fries (or sweet potato or waffle fries), smothered with cheese curds, scallions, coleslaw and pulled pork sauced with Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce. It’s an indulgent, delectable lunch or dinner option ready to please hungry customers.

Beyond pork, fried chicken is another home run when it comes to comfort food options. A perennial favorite, operators can serve traditional fried chicken, or consider new and enticing formats, like a honey hot chicken waffle cone. This dish starts with a sweet, crisp waffle cone, which is then stuffed with spicy chicken tenders, tossed in Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Hot Wing Sauce & Glaze, and topped with cooling, creamy coleslaw.

Saucy sides

Barbecue mains need tasty sides to accompany them, and foods that feature barbecue flavors are growing in popularity. According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, dishes of macaroni and cheese with barbecue flavors are up 38% year-over-year, while brisket dishes with barbecue flavors are up 18% and baked beans sides with barbecue flavors are up 9%. Macaroni and cheese, in particular, is always a hot selling item, with 50% of younger consumers say they are likely to purchase mac and cheese, according to Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates & Sides report.

Other sides that can benefit from a barbecue facelift include Cowboy Beans, a dish certain to appeal to diners who love baked beans. Cowboy Beans, made with pinto beans, brisket, spices and Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce, offer diners a new way to try a food they already know and love. And a bonus: This side combines two barbecue favorites — brisket and beans — into one tasty portion.

Diners who want to indulge in their favorite comfort foods are always on the lookout for options like fried chicken, coleslaw, pork, mac and cheese and more. By adding these to restaurant menus, operators can be sure that they’ve got what their customers are craving.

Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauces and glazes are a superb option for adding these updates to the menu. Find out more about creating dishes with bold flavor at https://www.sbrfoodservice.com/news-andoffers/comfort-foods.

This post is sponsored by Ken's Foods Inc.