The end of summer means a few things: cooler temps, different colors and of course, football season. Whether you’re tailgating before the game, watching at home on your big screen or looking to offer some new menu items this fall – you should take a look at incorporating more Blue Cheese.
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Butternut squash ravioli in the fall, lobster rolls in the summer. Seasonal foods are the best way to keep things interesting while incorporating the freshest ingredients. Changing up your menu also gives you the opportunity to flex your creative muscles and try out a new recipe. But where do you even begin? When creating a seasonal menu, here are some things to keep in mind:
As the summer days wind down, kids get ready to head back to class and many parents start to plan out their fall schedules. Back to school time means families are focusing back on routines. While most families plan to eat at home more, in reality, busy schedules filled with football practices and scout meetings can make parents turn to more convenient dining options. Restaurants can support busy parents need for a break by offering simple kids menus and healthy, sophisticated options for adults.
Just because parents may be enticed by the convenience of eating out in between piano lessons and sport practices doesn’t mean they want to sacrifice on healthy meals. According to Flavor & The Menu, “young millennial parents… consider healthy kids’ meals an expectation, not an exception to the rule. ‘Operators and menu developers are trying to do healthier meals, but they need to be as good as the meals that aren’t as good for you—the chicken nuggets of the world,’ adds Dave Zino, executive chef of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).”
The Packer reports that more than 42,000 locations nationwide now participate in the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program. In order to join the program, restaurants agree to offer and promote “a selection of qualifying menu items based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.” Above all else, the initiative places a focus on getting children to eat more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
Beyond healthy dining options, operators need to keep in mind that kids are becoming conscious diners. Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications at the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), says that “consumers are increasingly aware of what they and their families are consuming when they eat out.” She adds that operators know they need to offer great-tasting, kid-friendly menu items that are high in nutritional value.
Fresh, locally-sourced meals are among those menu items. Establishments like Giggles-n-Hugs, a chain of casual kid-friendly restaurants based in Los Angeles, features California cream cheese on its popular Walnut, Cucumber, and Cream Cheese Roll. With recipes this fun, kids don’t even know they’re eating healthy and their parents are satisfied.
When looking to amp up your restaurant’s kid’s menu, try these easy tips:
- Add colorful fruits & veggies
- Add whole grains
- Offer lean protein
- Serve kid size portions of healthful drinks or smoothies
Every meal has a star and most chefs cast the main dish in this role, but lately more and more are looking to sides to steal the show. On top of bringing seasonal variety to dishes, sides are the most adaptable menu item, able to take on different forms from appetizers to small plates. Their versatility and potential should not be overlooked when looking to take your menu to the next level.
Operators are finding that innovative sides encourage consumers to spend a little more. According to Technomics MenuMonitor, “new sides have been cropping up on restaurant menus in all segments in the last two quarters.” Traditional side dishes like potatoes and steamed veggies are still very common, but dishes with more interesting ingredients are growing such as jicama and red cabbage slaw. Chef Wes Morton of Art and Soul states that “sides have the potential to increase check average only…when the dishes are creative, attractive, [and] have meaning.”
Flavor & The Menu agrees, saying that operators are realizing that sides are more than what they used to be. Sides have moved to different categories such as, “Bar Bites, Shareables and Small Plates.”
Sides are truly becoming a differentiator when it is time for guests to order. “Appetizers, small plates and accompaniments are becoming more of a draw,” said Darren Tristano, e.v.p. of Technomic. “In fact, our data shows that consumer purchases of appetizers are steadily getting closer to pre-recession levels. That’s good news for operators looking to promote add-on sales of starters and other extras. Highlighting the shareable, fun factor of these foods—as well as their versatility—helps them function as menu differentiators.” What’s more, 36 percent of restaurant patrons admit they choose entrees based on the accompanying sides.
So how do you make sides, the supporting cast of menus, into center-of-the-plate stars? Try some dressing them up with some of these innovative recipes: