It’s not the changing of the leaves or the cooling of the weather that signals the beginning of fall. Instead it’s our taste buds, as we salivate over the avalanche of fall-flavored products that mark the start of autumn. While consumers still associate autumn with apple cider and apple picking, pumpkin has been presented as fall’s representative in the foodservice industry.
Pumpkin is not just being used for pies anymore, more and more menus are seeing pumpkin in a variety of different ways. You can find pumpkin in anything from doughnuts to lattes to milkshakes. According to NRN, “Datassential MenuTrends shows that pumpkin has steadily grown as a dessert menu flavor since 2005, increasing 11 percent in the last year alone. While one third of all pumpkin on dessert menus appears in pies, pumpkin is growing in all of the top item types of menu items, including in cheesecake, cakes, frozen treats and ice cream, custards and flans, and dessert bars.” You can also find the flavor in savory entrees, like Pumpkin Fettuccine.
Dave Becker, owner of the restaurant Juniper, plans some experimenting with fall flavors for cocktails and fall colors for decorating. According to Restaurant Hospitality, “he’s using extracts from both sassafras and birch bark to soak in grain alcohol and vodka, which provides woody, caramel and cinnamon notes.”
As you explore new combinations and presentations, consider what pairs well with the flavors of fall. Caramel is a great partner to pumpkin and apple, bringing together flavor combos everyone will love. Try a sweet creation like Pumpkin Caramel Spice Waffles to refresh your breakfast offerings.
Another aspect of fall flavor to consider is limited time availability, which drives demand and sales since fans can’t get their fix throughout the year. “Last year, the country’s 250 largest chains introduced 105 pumpkin-themed limited-time offers, more than twice as many as the 45 apple items they put on the menu,” according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor. Countless restaurants see success through themed limited-time offers – the most popular being Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, which is in its 11th season. Look to Starbucks’ zest and excitement for the season as inspiration as you build your own unique seasonal creations.
Flavor hype aside, fall is a time full of reflecting on memories and making new ones. Try to bring some of those evocative flavors in to your menu this season and create new food memories for you and your diners. Start with some Carmel Apple Crisp or Baked Acorn Squash to get you in the fall spirit!