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Comfort foods take on seasonal flavors for irresistible LTOs

Unilever Food Solutions

Novelty alone can’t guarantee a successful LTO; crafting a crowd-pleasing offering that encourages trial means striking a balance between uniqueness and approachability—that’s why adding creative twists to classic comfort foods can be a major restaurant “win.” Offering classic dishes that customers are already excited aboutbut enhancing them with unique ingredients or seasonal producecan not only help restaurateurs refresh their menus, but grow their businesses, too.

Fresh takes with small customizations

According to Technomic’s Sept. 2021 Comfort Connotations report, 30% of diners say they’re ordering new or different types of comfort foods. Familiar cuisines such as pizza, mac and cheese, burgers, fried chicken, ice cream and mashed potatoes fill this niche—and these can all be transformed into LTOs with creative twists or seasonal ingredients.

When it comes to LTOs, an element of novelty or uniqueness is key to differentiating new offerings from the core menu or from competitors’ fare. In fact, some consumers specifically cite comfort foods prepared with a unique ingredient as appealing, according to Technomic’s Comfort Connotations report. In short: Small changes can go a long way. Check out current comfort food trends, particularly with breakfast and snacking occasions, here for inspiration.

Customized pizza recipes are a perfect example of fusing a classic comfort favorite with a unique twist. This universally loved comfort food sees a major transformation just by switching out the sauce. By starting with LeGout® Cream Soup Base and adding a couple key ingredients, operators can create Caramelized Onion Sauce, Basil Cream Sauce, Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce, Pink Sauce or Four Cheese Sauce for a quick signature pie—get the recipes here.

Seasonal ingredients are also a great way to liven up a classic comfort dish. Start with crisp, juicy fried chicken and serve it up with in-season produce. Try topping a fried chicken sandwich with toasted pecans and smoky bourbon maple aioli, or chop up end pieces and use in a grain bowl with roasted delicata squash, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds for fall-inspired variations.

Signature made simple

Of course, incorporating new items into the menu—limited-time or otherwise—shouldn’t come at the expense of the restaurant’s margins or efficiency, especially at a time when supply-chain disruptions and labor shortages leave less room for error than ever. Fortunately, customized comfort foods need not deviate too greatly from the restaurant’s core recipes—just one or two specialized ingredients or prep methods (such as pickling, fermenting, blistering and grilling) can set an LTO apart.

To make crafting high quality, crowd-pleasing LTOs easier than ever, products from Unilever Food Solutions brands such as Hellmann’s®, Best Foods®, Knorr® and LeGout® offer the perfect platform for cooking up on-trend, comfort-focused dishes while keeping operational efficiency high. Try these recipes offering a twist on comfort classics: BBQ Beef Quesadillas, Curried Chicken Coconut Soup with Noodles, a Cauliflower Breakfast Bowl with Chipotle Carrot Hollandaise or Mexican Street Corn Potato Salad.   

Want some inspiration for crowd-pleasing dishes packed with seasonal appeal? Unilever Food Solutions’ Seasonal Flavors Trend Guide has things covered. Check it out today by clicking here.

This post is sponsored by Unilever Food Solutions

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