Menu trends at RLC, how a St. Louis chef is elevating sushi, and hot sauces and LTOs in the spotlight

Menu Talk: Pat and Bret dig into the latest food and drink trends and news.

This week on Menu Talk, Restaurant Business Senior Menu Editor Pat Cobe and Bret Thorn, senior food and beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, share their take on some recent happenings in the world of food and drink.

Pat just returned from Informa’s Restaurant Leadership Conference in Phoenix and she recaps some of the menu innovation sessions that took place. Once again, there was a lot of conversation around sauces and the impact of LTOs in evolving the menu. We talk about how the heat is on to make sauces hotter than ever and look at some of the unique limited-time offers coming out of the R&D pipeline.

April is Earth Month, and restaurants are busily promoting their sustainability efforts. Bees are getting some attention on menus, with honey-sweetened cocktails and desserts celebrating our planet’s pollinators. And mushrooms, one of the most sustainably-grown crops, are showing up in several menu items.

The eco-conscious promotions all came to a peak on Monday officially “Earth Day.” We also note all the other “days” occurring this month with somewhat less-serious missions, like National Cold Brew Day and National Banana Day.

Bret’s industry interview this week is with Nick Bognar, the chef with restaurants Indo and Sado in St. Louis. Indo is more of a pan-Asian spot, but Sado is rooted in Japanese cuisine.

Nick talks about how he offers “level-one” nigiri and sashimi, as well as robata grilling for the less-adventurous St. Louis guests who come to have fun. But he also curates a massive section of higher-level sushi, sourcing seafood flown in from Japan and applying elevated techniques like dry aging for a more intense flavor experience.

It took Nick about five years to get Sado off the ground, training staff on butchering and dry aging and breaking down barriers with his teams and guests. He shares the challenges and rewards of introducing and perfecting the technique and elevating the sushi game in St. Louis.

Menu Talk is a collaboration between Restaurant Business Senior Menu Editor Pat Cobe and Bret Thorn, senior food & beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality. You can subscribe to it wherever you listen to podcasts.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content

Emerging Brands

5 pre-emerging restaurant brands ready for takeoff

These small concepts are still proving out their ideas, but each shows promise as a potential candidate for the next generation of emerging chains.


This little-known iPhone feature could change restaurant ordering

Tech Check: Almost every customer has a POS in their pocket. Can mini mobile apps get them to actually use it?


Red Lobster gives private equity another black eye

The Bottom Line: The role a giant sale-leaseback had in the bankruptcy filing of the seafood chain has drawn more criticism of the investment firms' financial engineering. The criticism is well-earned.


More from our partners