For restaurateurs, ingredient simplification is key for success in today’s marketplace. Clean labels and all-natural ingredients continue to be a hot button for consumers, and operators are responding in kind—some of the biggest national chains have pledged to move to all-natural ingredients in the next few years.
However, food costs are at an all-time high, which makes menuing real, natural ingredients tricky. And at the same time, offering flavor-forward dishes is paramount. So how can operators balance all of these variables and still turn a profit?
One easy way operators can do more with less is by using clean-label ingredients to create sauces that can be used across all menu parts for flavor without fuss.
Add variety and value
Flavor-forward sauces, especially in dippable or shareable applications, are also an easy way for operators to dress up menu standards as something special. Casual-dining chain Applebee’s menus sweet potato fries with three different dipping sauces—Sriracha chile lime, BBQ bacon ranch and maple-flavored cream cheese—on its new appetizer menu.
Sauces also provide a low-risk way for consumers to try unfamiliar or adventurous flavors, which can boost the sale of items that include them. Mann says that there are many flavors and sauces trending on menus today, including those hitting on the ethnic trend such as piri piri sauce, harissa, gojuchang, as well as nut butters and savory jams featuring bacon, tomato or onion. “All can add a premium twist to flatbreads, sandwiches, pizzas, entrees, salads or proteins,” she says.
This same concept can be applied front-of-house, too. Bottled, housemade sauces served tableside can be a way to offer customizable options and stand apart from competitors. PizzaRev, a build-your-own pizza chain, recently launched its own line of hot sauces that feature ingredients such as garlic habanero and datil pepper. Likewise, Nando’s Peri-Peri Chicken produces its own line of bottled sauces that help customers acclimate to its foreign flavors.
Dress up value cuts
One time-honored technique for cutting food costs is to menu underutilized cuts of meat, such as beef cheek, short ribs or pork shoulder. Pairing these value cuts with flavorful sauces can be a way to create consumer demand for these less-expensive ingredients, says Jana Mann, senior director at Chicago-based research firm Datassential.
“Less expensive cuts, like chicken thighs, are showing up on more casual-dining independent menus,” says Mann. “The tenderness of the meat infused with innovative flavors results in an on-trend menu item.” For example, chef-driven independent and butcher shop Publican Quality Meats, in Chicago, recently featured a pub chicken salad with marinated chicken thigh and a poppy seed buttermilk dressing on its weekday menu.
Mann also notes that highlighting the preparation methods and flavor combinations of a dish can be a way for operators to adjust consumer perception and turn a less-expensive cut into a desirable entree. “With menu descriptions and reputation of [a restaurant], consumers may not even be aware that the restaurant’s offering reflect some lower-priced proteins,” she says.
For more tips on creating versatile, flavorful sauces, visit Litehouse Foodservice here.
This post is sponsored by Litehouse Foodservice