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Food

How to leverage comfort food trends

Chicken tenders
Photograph: Shutterstock

Throughout the pandemic, consumers turned to familiar favorite foods to help lift their moods and feed their families. Foods such as chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, lasagna and more took center stage when consumers were grocery shopping as well as when they were ordering food from restaurants. In fact, according to Technomic’s Take: Consumer Perspectives and Behavior fromMay 15, 2020, 47% of consumers said they had been craving more comfort foods.

Comfort foods are popular for a number of reasons—of course, they offer comfort for weary diners, but they also offer feelings of nostalgia. Patrons who choose comfort foods for their meals may be looking to eat something familiar to them, something they enjoyed as a child that their parents cooked for them or something that’s simple to prepare. Foods like pasta, pizza and soup are all comfort foods—and were consumed on a regular basis throughout the pandemic.

Which Comfort Foods Consumers Ate During the Pandemic/Isolation

For operators, welcoming consumers back into dining areas is an exciting endeavor, and many restaurants may be more than ready to test out new and different menu items. But it should be noted that many patrons will still be looking for their favorite comfort foods, even as life gets back to some relative sense of normal. As such, operators will want to be sure to offer a variety of comfort foods alongside new or unfamiliar dishes. Here’s how to capitalize on the trend.

Identify what makes something “comfort food”

In order to offer the dishes their patrons are looking for, it’s essential for operators to know what consumers view as comfort foods. Beef dishes, according to nearly half of consumers, are comfort foods—Technomic’s 2021 Center of the Plate: Beef and Pork Consumer Trend Report notes that 44% of consumers say so, compared to 37% of consumers who say pork dishes are comfort foods. These types of dishes, including steaks and hamburgers as well as barbecue pork and other meaty choices, provide homestyle nostalgia and are often prepared alongside other comfort foods, such as macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes. Rich and indulgent foods are often seen as comfort foods, too. Comfort foods may be characterized by a higher carbohydrate or calorie count or a simpler preparation method, but that isn’t necessarily true across the board.     

Tune into top-selling comfort food choices

Rather than guessing whether consumers will be interested in a certain food, operators can always look at the data—finding out what some of the best-selling comfort foods are can help inform menu choices for both on-premise eats as well as takeout and delivery offerings. The foods most-ordered during the pandemic included an array of comfort foods—here’s how much more popular they were in 2020 compared to 2019:

Top 10 Most Popular Orders on Grubhub in 2020

Offer travelers a slice of home

Even when consumers are guests at a hotel far away, they may want a meal that brings them back home—something that tastes like home cooking with familiar flavors or something that’s a bit of a treat. But, of course, their standards are still high—be sure to prepare comfort foods with high-quality ingredients such as all-natural chicken, real cheese and homemade sauces.

Tyson Foodservice, for example, offers an array of products perfect for the comfort menu and beyond, from Tyson® Bone-In and Boneless Wings and Tyson Red Label® Golden Crispy Breast Filets to prepared options such as Steak-EZE® Philly Freedom® Traditional Flat Steak, perfect for Philly Cheesesteaks and other comforting choices, and even classic, kid-friendly comfort foods such as corn dogs, Jimmy Dean Simple Scrambles® Breakfast Cups and more.

Operators should look for a vendor that can supply a wide variety of comfort food favorites, as this makes switching up the menu a breeze.

Other tips for banking on comfort food trends

Beyond offering comfort foods made with high-quality ingredients, operators should also consider versatility, labor and off-premise viablity when choosing which comfort foods to put or keep on the menu.

When it comes to versatility, operators should consider if their ingredients can be used in other dishes across the menu. If so, this can help keep product costs down and can also save space in kitchen storage as fewer ingredients overall will need to be kept on hand.

As far as labor is concerned, operators should look for ready-to-eat and low-prep ingredients, such as pre-breaded or pre-marinated proteins. Keeping labor low where possible will help mitigate the stress of the current labor challenges many operators are facing.

Tyson products, for example, are an ideal, low-labor solution for operators. Here are a few ways to use them.

Finally, consider off-premise viability. Ensuring a good experience carries over to takeout and delivery orders. While many consumers will be dining onsite this summer, plenty of others may still feel hesitant, or may just prefer the convenience of takeout and delivery. Make sure off-premise orders of comfort foods arrive in top condition—close to how they’d arrive at the table if the customer was dining onsite.

Operators dialing into comfort food trends right now are wise to do so. By opting to use ingredients that are versatile, low efficient and hold up to offsite dining, they ensure their customers will enjoy the food they order.

To learn more about Tyson Foodservice products that are perfect for the comfort food menu and beyond, visit www.tysonfoodservice.com/your-channel/lodging.

This post is sponsored by Tyson Foodservice-Lodging Team

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