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Food

There’s no place like home

Tap into a love of hometown favorites with regional dishes
Photograph: Shutterstock

Home is where the heart is – and, often, the palate. Whether it’s barbecue in Kansas City, deep dish pizza in Chicago, key lime pie in Florida or any other geographically-based fare, favorite foods in many parts of the country are deeply rooted in local culture. Think back to where you grew up or where you live now, and chances are, you can rattle off a list of foods that visitors should try when they’re there.

Regional food that’s considered to be a staple or even beloved can be linked to a big city, state or broader multi-state area as well as a very local level. A town might be known for its annual bumper crop of hatch chiles or, for that matter, a certain type of sandwich associated with local lore and legend.

Thanks to factors like social media (Instagram food photos in particular) and the general globalization of cuisine, some regional dishes are becoming more well-known and enjoyed beyond the point of origin.

One notable example is Nashville Hot Chicken, which has moved beyond Tennessee and onto menus around the country. As of Q2 2019, mentions of Nashville Hot Chicken sandwiches or wraps are up 86% from Q2 2018, according to Technomic’s Ignite.  Menu Data, for instance, and Nashville Hot Chicken strips/nuggets have grown 25% in the same time frame. These dishes are appealing because they have a certain cache and level of notoriety associated with the city but also because they combine a favorite protein like chicken with some seriously savory heat. And for the 77% of consumers who say they enjoy food that is either moderately or very spicy, according to Technomic's 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report, that’s a winning combo.

Location, location, location

Enlivening the menu with some local flair can be done just about anywhere. Operators keyed into the local market can learn more about local and regional favorites and adopt those flavors into their own dishes. They can also experiment with fusion—local favorites combined with far-reaching flavors like Nashville Hot Chicken are the perfect recipe for creating a signature dish.

Tyson’s chef-developed, authentic Tyson® Nashville Hot Chicken recipe allows operators to add the fiery flavor to their menus with back-of-house ease and convenience. It features a classic combination of cayenne pepper, chili powder and smoky flavor that’ll have patrons thinking they’re right in Music City.

Tyson has 3 Nashville Hot offerings: Boneless Wings, Breast Filets and Thigh Filets.

Best of all, all it takes to prep is two easy steps: Heat the fully cooked chicken and then toss it with the signature sauce. The sauce can be easily heated first by either running under hot water or soaking in a water bath. To see how easy it is to make this dish, visit The Modern Chef Network to see a video on Nashville Hot Chicken.

That same part of the country that celebrates the hatch chile harvest, for example, can amend a Nashville Hot Chicken recipe to create a “Hatchville” Hot Chicken, using Nashville Hot as a base and topping it with Hatch chile salsa or frizzled hatch chiles. An operator in the Windy City, meanwhile, could make a pizza with Nashville Hot Chicken as a topping, combined with a cheese that either complements or tempers the chicken’s heat.

Inspiration for locally inspired signature dishes can come from restaurant staff who know the scene well or from an operator’s own understanding of foods that resonate with those who live in their market.

Ideas can also stem from reading up on local food history or, even better, talking to customers.

Share the story, pair the dish with other regional favorites

Talking to customers both before and after adding a local or regional dish generates excitement about it.  Share some of the information and backstory behind regionally inspired dishes on your menu or in supporting communications, including social media and in servers’ description of the item.

Another way to garner more interest and sales is to pair a regional dish with a regional drink, whether it’s a beer from a nearby craft brewer, a regional wine or sodas from a popular state brand.

Indeed, there are plenty of ways to make customers feel at home, with a world of flavor at the same time. And with diners clamoring for regional favorites, it’s beneficial for operators to offer these local (and not-so-local) faves.

Tyson’s chef-developed, authentic Tyson® Nashville Hot Chicken recipe allows operators to add the fiery flavor to their menus with back-of-house ease and convenience. It features a classic combination of cayenne pepper, chili powder and smoky flavor that’ll have patrons thinking they’re right in Music City.

Tyson has 3 Nashville Hot offerings: Boneless Wings, Breast Filet and Thigh Filet.

It’s got two easy steps: Heat the fully cooked chicken and then toss it with the signature sauce. The sauce can be easily heated first by either running under hot water or soaking in a water bath.

This post is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Inc.

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