Throughout the pandemic, consumers turned to comfort foods frequently—for obvious reasons. DoorDash surveyed 2,000 Americans to find out what they were eating in the first six months of 2020, and top sellers included chicken quesadillas, buttermilk fried chicken, create-your-own-pizzas, cinnamon rolls and cheese nachos.
For operators who want to take advantage of this trend, offering comfort food mashups, such as loaded potato tots, can be a great way to do so—and they can often boost check averages, as Technomic’s 2021 Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report found that 34% of consumers are willing to pay extra to substitute another side for one that comes standard with an entree. Additionally, comfort food mashups can be sold as entrees themselves, with premium toppings (such as avocado, pulled pork or cheese sauce) offered as an upcharge.
When choosing sides, consumers are not only looking for something new and exciting—they are also looking for items they know they’ll enjoy, which is where comfort foods come in. Here are three ways to use familiar comfort foods to amp up the indulgence factor on the menu while appealing to all types of diners.
Potato options are among the most popular sides, according to Technomic’s Starters, Small Plates and Sides report—about a third of consumers say they’d order potato tots at least occasionally. And according to Datassential's Menu Trends 2020, 71% of consumers say they like or love tots, and 81% are willing to pay more for a house-made version. Potato tots are a great side on their own, but they can be used in so many other creative ways, too—as a replacement for tortillas or tortilla chips (tot-chos, anyone?), as potato cakes—perfect at breakfast—and so much more. For operators who want to use tots more on the menu, try these options:
Similarly, mashed potatoes are a big seller, and are considered the ultimate comfort food by many diners. In fact, Datassential’s 2021 Flavor IQ report found that 84% of consumers love or like mashed potatoes—but they’re only on 23% of restaurant menus, so there’s big opportunity for operators. Up the indulgence, create a feast for the eyes, and make mashed potatoes a little more interesting—and versatile for more dayparts—by adding toppings or mix-ins. Popular toppings include garlic, gravy, bacon, cheddar and butter, but operators can also experiment with these fun and innovative ideas:
Finally, hashbrowns. A breakfast staple that has the potential to go much farther, hashbrowns are perfect for menuing all day long. They are the most popular breakfast side, with nearly half of consumers saying they’d order hashbrowns at least occasionally, so it’s easy for operators to adapt them to other dayparts with these menu ideas:
Learn more about potato potential
Potatoes offer the versatility that operators need. Now more than ever, both food and labor costs are a pain point for restaurants of all stripes, so choosing menu items and ingredients that can work overtime is crucial. With potato options from Basic American Foods, operators can do it all—from breakfast, lunch and dinner options, to globally inspired dishes, appetizers and so much more. The possibilities are endless. To learn more and to request a sample, click here.
This post is sponsored by Basic American Foods