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Food

Keep the menu fresh with simplified LTOs

Mac and cheese
Photograph: Shutterstock

Transitioning into the new normal has given restaurant operators renewed motivation to refresh the menu. As consumers settle into new routines, recruiting, recapturing and retaining diners is the name of the game, and bringing a dynamic element to the menu is key to maintaining a competitive edge and encouraging repeat visits.

Rotating seasonal items, for example, is a great way to keep the menu fresh all year round. Especially as off-premise occasions remain popular, LTOs can keep sales consistent among diners ordering food to enjoy at home. According to Technomic’s Oct. 2020 Ordering Online for Delivery report, consumers cite signature offerings and seasonal LTOs among the top purchase drivers they consider when choosing where to eat.

The soup, salad and side dish selection is a great place to add a seasonal twist. Try offering seasonal soups and classic, homestyle sides in the autumn, for example, and try menuing hearty grain salads in the winter. Butternut squash bisque and sweet potato sides are always welcome cold-weather additions, and holiday-related offerings—such as gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving—can bring a festive flair.

Amid the recovering market, however, restaurateurs are mindful as ever about their margins, and short-staffed operations are justifiably avoidant of adding labor behind the scenes. For these reasons, simplifying strategies can make LTOs all the more profitable.

Adding new recipes to the repertoire can require additional training for workers who are already operating on a tight timetable. In addition, LTOs that use ingredients that don’t appear elsewhere on the menu can result in wasted food at the end of the season or promotional period. As a result, operators say seeking recipes that use ingredients they already purchase is their No. 1 consideration when adding a new menu item, according to Technomic’s Q1 2021 LTO Highlights.

To keep LTO planning stress-free, consider using versatile ingredients and prepared solutions that help keep prep work low and wasted food to a minimum. Precooked proteins and pastas are great timesaving solutions that also leave room to customize, and premade sauces and bases are useful across the menu. Prepared meals made to heat and serve are perfect for meeting fluctuations in demand with no extra prep required.

Gauging consumer interest is key to the success of an LTO. Beyond seasonal flavors, scoping out current trends in food and dining habits can help in crafting an offering that drives sales. For example, demand for comfort food remains elevated in the wake of the pandemic, and classic flavors offer a broad appeal. Variations on macaroni and cheese, for example, can bring excitement to an otherwise familiar offering.

Better-for-you options, too, are in high demand. Offer dishes that appeal to the health-conscious crowd with nutrient-packed ingredients, such as a quinoa salad, cauliflower mash with parmesan or roasted potatoes dressed in kale pesto.

Value is an evergreen priority for consumers of all stripes, and quality is one of diners’ forefront considerations in getting their money’s worth. Especially when working with new and unique offerings, it’s crucial for restaurateurs to seek a supplier who offers consistent quality across each and every prepared offering.

Sandridge Foods Corporation offers a broad array of prepared dishes and ingredients that make kitchen innovation—for LTOs and beyond—both easy and cost-effective. Sandridge’s fresh, hand-prepared offerings give operators the flavor and quality of a housemade dish without the hassle.

Fully-Cooked Diced Grilled Chicken is one of the most versatile kitchen multitaskers restaurants can keep in stock, as it’s useful across dayparts, menu parts and cuisine types. Slow-cooked Pork Carnitas brings a globally inspired flair with piquant Mexican flavors that add excitement to salads, nachos, burrito bowls and more. Sandridge Foods offers opportunities for quick customizations, too, with dishes to mix and match. Try topping classic Macaroni and Cheese with Chipotle Chicken for an LTO that’s as unique as it is approachable.

LTOs will play no small role in restaurants’ road to recovery, and solutions from Sandridge make it easy to keep the menu feeling fresh. To learn more, visit sandridge.com.

This post is sponsored by Sandridge Food Corporation

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