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Patricia Cobe

Senior Editor

Articles by
Patricia Cobe

Page 108

Topping off pizza

U.S. pizza restaurant sales are expected to reach $44 billion by 2017, according to Mintel’s latest research. Traditional pizza options remain popular, but consumers’ pizza tastes are broadening when it comes to topping off their pies.


Courting diners with local flavors

The Columbus, Ohio-based Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern has 15 locations, but only the Indianapolis store serves up a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. The reason? Consumer demand for this regional Hoosier specialty could not be ignored.

Del Taco has always been known for delivering value in the Mexican QSR space. But as a perennial bridesmaid to Taco Bell, the brand wanted to better communicate what it sees as its points of differentiation: made-to-order freshness and top quality ingredients.

Steak performs well for Cousins Subs, because core customers see it as a point of differentiation for a sandwich QSR, says Justin McCoy, VP of marketing at the 122-unit chain based in Menamonee Falls, Wis. So in the last quarter of 2014, R&D developed a cheesesteak that layers a more generous portion of steak with premium ingredients.

Flighty may best describe the 2014 restaurant customer. End-of-year trend predictions revealed that he or she may be seeking adventurous flavors on one visit, value on another.

Certain trends grab the culinary spotlight and refuse to die—even when diners and chefs can no longer stand to hear about them. One view at why some of these trends may merit continuing attention in 2014, while others should be tossed aside with the last of the New Year’s confetti.

Continuing to upgrade its burger selections, the 28-unit Taco Mac Sports Grill added the Santa Fe Burger—an LTO starring fresh avocados. With its healthy halo and premium ingredients, it became the chain’s second best-selling burger during its run and is now part of the regular menu.

Cooking seasonally goes beyond sourcing fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that are at their peak. After all, for the next few months, local fields may be barren and fresh produce scarce in a large part of the country.

A Harvard bioengineer named David Edwards invented edible packaging called WikiCells that can enclose any food or beverage “like a grape skin."

Menus are pushing past traditional meat choices. Chefs are thinking outside the beef-pork-poultry box and putting more goat, rabbit and pigeon or squab in the center of the plate. Kazia Jankowski of the Sterling-Rice Group in Denver predicts that this will be a leading trend in 2014, as foodies increasingly seek alternative proteins, especially from small-scale producers.

It’s never been more competitive in the burger category. Not only are “better burger” concepts proliferating, QSRs and sports grills are upping the ante and casual and fine-dining chefs are serving inspired signatures. So how do you get consumers to choose your burger?

Senior Editor Pat Cobe talks about how restaurants came to the rescue before, during and after a recent move from New York to Chicago, nourishing both body and soul.

  • Page 108