April 5th, 2021

Guajillo Chile is the Flavor of the Moment

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Sauce

Guajillo Chile Makes a Bold Statement

Guajillo Chile

Image courtesy of WorldSpice.com

2021 looks to be the year of chiles and spice, and the guajillo chile is already making a big splash.

The guajillo pepper in its fresh form is called a mirasol pepper. When dried, it develops a leathery skin and a complex fruity and smoky flavor. With a flavor hybrid of raisin and chipotle.

It has a medium spiciness, ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville Heat Units. This makes it slightly spicier than a poblano but milder than your average jalapeño.

In Mexico you’ll most commonly find guajillo chiles in moles, but they also find their way into salsas and marinades. Their dark brown color creates a beautiful, deep, rich looking sauce akin to chocolate.

Guajillo Chilies on the Rise

How Common is it?

Guajillo Chile Salsa

Photo courtesy of PepperScale.com.

Right now, guajillo chilies rest at the “Adoption” phase of Datassential’s Menu Adoption Cycle. This means that it’s gaining traction, but still unique. You’ll find guajillo at progressive fast casuals and specialty grocery stores, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

According to Datassential, this smoky little delight is on about 2.8% of menus nationwide, but that’s up 28% over the past for years. So, there’s definitely interest brewing. While only 14% of the population has tried it, 29% of the population knows about it. That means there’s a good opportunity to expose curious new consumers to the flavor in the form of a special sauce or LTO.

Where Can You Find Guajillo on Menus?

Chile Trends

Image courtesy of RickBayless.com.

As stated above, it’s still working its way into the mainstream, but has nonetheless permeated some recognizable menus.

The most standout of which would be Xoco, Rick Bayless’s fast-casual restaurant in Chicago. He puts guajillo center stage in his short rib sandwich made with guajillo-braised short ribs, grilled cactus salad, avocado, and black beans.

It’s also featured on menus in places like Dirt Candy, TAG Restaurants, and at Proof and Provision in Atlanta. This, of course, is only a small smattering of establishments finding the rich complexity of guajillo a winning ingredient.

Even retail brands like Pace Picante and Humble House Sauces have launched salsas featuring guajillo chilies.

What Does This Mean?

Food Trends

Image courtesy of WoodlandFoods.com

It means guajillo is growing in recognition and becoming a safe option to explore on your restaurant’s menu. Adding guajillo concentrates and salsas to items like sour cream and mayonnaise balance out the heat with creaminess and cool flavors. These are great for sandwiches and wraps.

Consider adding guajillo to fresh house salsas to add bold flavor and offer another menu item without adding multiple ingredients. Or even drop a whole chile into soups, stews, and chilis to add a unique flavor that’ll help you stand out among competitors. Your imagination is the limit.

A Chile with Depth

The smoky, slightly piquant, and sweet/tart nature of guajillo chiles make them a safe bet for menu experimentation. And with trends pushing towards specific chile flavors and piquant foods, the time is right to get in front of customers.

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March 15th, 2021

Fried Chicken Sandwiches: 2020 in Review

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

2020 Was a Banner Year for Fried Chicken Sandwiches

2020 proved to be a great year for innovation around fried chicken sandwiches, with creative ideas and bold flavors. And as we’ve already seen in 2021, the love for fried chicken continues.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best fried chicken sandwiches of 2020 and how they could affect trends in 2021.

2020 in Fried Chicken Sandwiches

Famous Dave’s

Fried Chicken Sandwiches

Image courtesy of ChewBoom.com

Our first inclusion is Famous Dave’s Iris’ Comeback Chicken Sandwich. This crunchy concoction features a fried chicken breast on a brioche bun with two spicy pickles and comeback sauce. What’s “comeback sauce?” It’s a savory and spicy chile-infused mayonnaise sauce popular in the Southeast.

Think of it like a fiery aioli made by simply combining a flavorful chile sauce or paste with mayonnaise and some seasonings. It’s an easy upgrade to any menu.

Quaker Steak & Lube

Fried Chicken Sandwich Trends

Image courtesy of PRNewswire.com.

Quaker Steak & Lube jumped on a few great trends of 2020 with their Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. It’s a grilled or fried chicken breast tossed in hot buffalo sauce and served over shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and dill pickle chips on a brioche bun.

It may be a classic, but when done right with a killer buffalo sauce, it’s also a plow horse of a menu item. The key is getting a buffalo sauce that’s just spicy enough to keep adventurous eaters happy, but not so hot that it makes other diners wary to order.

Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

2020 Restaurant Trends

Image courtesy of LucillesBBQ.com.

Keeping up with the spicy trend, Lucille’s went all in with their Nashville Hot chicken Sandwich. Featuring a spicy fried chicken breast, sweet pickles, coleslaw, and Alabama white barbecue sauce on a brioche bun, it does a great job of balancing the heat with sweet and creamy flavors.

And Lucille’s certainly isn’t the only one to launch a Nashville Hot build. BJ’s, Yard House, and even Red Lobster all jumped on the trend in 2020 as well. Fine by us, the more the merrier when it comes to Nashville Hot.

Lucille’s also launched a Crispy Hot-Honey Chicken Sandwich in 2020. A similar build as the Nashville Hot, except it’s tossed in a sweet/hot honey glaze.

Roy Rogers

Food Trend Reviews

Image courtesy of RestaurantBusinessOnline.com.

Our final entry on the list goes all in on upgraded BBQ flavors. Roy Rogers launched a Bacon Bourbon Chicken Sandwich that hits just the right balance of sweet, smoky, tangy, and savory. It’s a breaded and fried chicken breast (or grilled breast), with bacon, Bourbon Street Sauce (a sweet and tangy bourbon-flavored sauce) and pepper Jack cheese on a bun.

That hint of heat from the pepper Jack cheese is really the difference maker here. It does a great job of balancing the sweet and smoky flavors of the Bourbon Street Sauce.

What’s Next for 2021?

Time will tell. But we’d guess you’ll see innovative new takes on crispy chicken sandwiches featuring global flavors like curry and Korean BBQ. And with a reinvigoration for Chinese American cuisine, we wouldn’t be shocked to find a General Tso’s or a Kung Pao making a national debut, either.

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March 1st, 2021

Trustworthy Trends During COVID

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

A Few COVID Foods Trends You Can Rely On

With new items seemingly appearing overnight, it’s good to have a few trustworthy trends you can expect to drive business in 2021.

During the 2020 MUFSO conference, trend analyst Nancy Kruse gave out her bankable trends going into 2021. These include things like vegetables, nostalgic meals, and global flavors. Let’s dive into each of these and see how they could benefit your restaurant.

Trustworthy Restaurant Trends

Vegetables

Trustworthy Trends

Veggies continue to get attention on menus nationally. 2019 saw vegetables get sincere center-of-the-plate attention, and now in 2021 they’re getting all over the plate attention. Restaurants across the country are finding new and exciting ways to utilize vegetables.

Several pizza chains, like Donato’s, Blaze, Jet’s and California Pizza Kitchen have introduced cauliflower crusts. Dos Toros has released cauliflower rice as a base for their bowls. Even Taco Bell announced a return to serving potatoes on their menu, which can be substituted for any protein.

Driven by health and environmental concerns, there’s no doubt vegetables will continue to drive menu innovation and consumer interest.

Global Flavors

COVID Food Trends

Global flavors are continuing to pop up on menus universally. Domino’s launched a Taco Pizza, while IHOP launched a line of poblano burritos and bowls.

Even restaurants that focus on American regional fares have jumped on board, evidenced by Zaxby’s General Tso’s Chicken.

There are no real rules about where global flavors need to live. They can be seasonings, specialty ingredients, or entire menu items. Sauces are an especially easy way to add global flair to existing menu items. Use them to dip, drizzle, or slather onto your customer’s favorite menu items for safe experimentation they’ll love.

Retro Meals

Chinese food trends

Let’s face it, for better or worse, the 80’s and 90’s are back. Don’t believe me? Just check out casual-dining chain Lazy Dog’s line of TV dinners. The Cheese Enchilada dinner. It comes with house-made chipotle ranchero sauce and cinnamon churro caramel cake, all housed in a compartmentalized tin container.

Chinese American cuisine is also making a comeback. We’ve already referenced Zaxby’s General Tso’s chicken, but don’t be surprised to see items like kung pao, lemon chicken, and beef and broccoli return to mainstream menus. Only now, they’ll feature cleaner ingredients and modern twists.

Where Do These Fit on Your Menu?

That’s what you should be asking yourself. Act quick to be on top of these broad new trends. They’re easy to execute and are bound to drive sales and interest. Don’t forget, people still love to dip and dunk, so make life easy with on trend sauce upgrades.

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February 15th, 2021

Restaurants Increase Customer Satisfaction During COVID

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants, Technology

Restaurant Business May be Down, but Customer Satisfaction is Up

Customer satisfaction

Even through these hard times, it’s great to see that restaurants are succeeding at increasing customer satisfaction during COVID. Recently, Black Box Intelligence™, a data and insights provider for the hospitality industry, released a study showing showcasing this.

Here are some of the main takeaways.

Restaurants Show Increased Customer Satisfaction During COVID

The Hard Facts

Customer satisfaction

Fourth quarter of 2020 was no friend to most restaurant businesses. In fact, by December, overall same-store sales growth had dropped -13.3% year-over-year. Traffic growth also fell to -18.6%.

Reasons for the downturn include spiking COVID-19 rates, colder weather, and tighter dining restrictions. In some states, like California, on-premises dining was banned completely for a time, which clearly weighs heavy on these statistics.

It’s also difficult to build consumer trust right now. Restaurants are leveraging social media technology to communicate with diners and humanize the business, but that can only go so far. Without the ability to greet and court customers in person, it’s an uphill battle.

The Bright Spots

 

Pizza Restaurants

But, if there’s a glimpse of sunshine in all of that dark data, it’s this: Black Box Intelligence™ suggests restaurants were able to raise their positive brand sentiment in December.

Without ambience as a focal point for customer satisfaction, the focus has shifted to safety and cleanliness, which has been a priority among restaurants.

Also, not only did brand sentiment increase, but so did positive perceptions of food and service. In fact, 50% of mentions and online reviews spoke of the food received from restaurants in a positive light. This is great news for those F&B businesses working to adapt to the new style of dining.

Who’s Coming Out on Top?

Quick Service

The driver behind the sentiment increases were mainly seen in limited (quick) service restaurants. Quick-service foods tend to withstand the perils of food transport better and the concepts are often built around the convenience and flexibility of ordering.

Many limited-service restaurants were already accustomed to online, drive-through, or window orders, which made the adaptation much easier.

Even more, customers have now come to expect digital ordering technology from restaurants.

According to the Black Box Intelligence™ study, 1 in 4 customers would choose a restaurant that has app-based ordering over another without. For now, the tech is an edge, but soon it will be the expectation.

Other Insights

Interestingly, value was much less important to customers, in relation to satisfaction at least, than safety and food quality. However, that doesn’t mean value isn’t important, just not top of mind for consumers currently.

Value is a tentpole of earning return customers, so it certainly shouldn’t be ignored. But the takeaway here is this: Make high quality food that’s easy to access and provided in a safe environment, then worry about the value. This hierarchy of importance will ensure consistent consumer traffic to the extent COVID will allow.

What About the Future?

on-premises-dining

With all that being said, 64% of consumers would still prefer a traditional dining experience.

Consumers are adapting to the situation at hand, yet they still yearn for the normalcy of past years. Once socialization returns to a new normal, it’s expected that the restaurant experience will draw folks back into dining rooms.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know when this will happen. Therefore, it will be important to the success of restaurants to adapt to the current landscape in order to make it back to profitability.

However, keep in mind; in-house it will likely not return to pre-pandemic levels. At least not anytime soon. Therefore, having technology, off-premises dining solutions, and safety practices in place will help create a holistic method of success which will drive restaurants of the future.

We’ll Get Through This

Yes, there’s bad news here, but there’s also good news, also. Consumers love their restaurants, and they want them to succeed. Even in hard times, they are willing to spend their money on restaurant food. By making it more accessible, it will ensure they consumers will keep supporting restaurants. This reciprocal relationship is the bedrock of ensuring the future of our beloved food and beverage industry.

Source

-Black Box Intelligence. “Restaurants succeed in raising guest sentiment in December, despite downturn in sales and traffic.” January 20, 2021. Accessed January 21, 2o21. https://www.nrn.com/finance/restaurants-succeed-raising-guest-sentiment-december-despite-downturn-sales-and-traffic

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February 1st, 2021

New Menu Items January 2021

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

January 2021 New Menu Items See Fried Chicken Taking Center Stage

fried-chicken

The first month of the year has passed and the January 2021 New Menu Items prove that comfort foods are still thriving.

In fact, fried chicken is clearly the favorite for the new year. Whether it’s sweet or spicy, the crispy, savory nature of “fricken” (fried + chicken) continues to drive consumers wild.

Let’s take a look at what was released in January.

January 2021 New Menu Items

Boston Market

January 2021 New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of QSRMagazine.com.

Boston Market continues their innovation run with a new Nashville-Style Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich. It’s a breaded and fried chicken breast with smoky hot sauce, pickles, and ranch dressing on a buttery brioche bun. Nashville Hot is getting more popular every month and is something that should be on your flavor radar.

The Habit Burger Grill

Fried Chicken

Photo courtesy of FoodBusinessNews.net

The burger bosses at Habit Burger are shaking their tailfeathers with their new double-breaded Crispy Chicken Bites. Served with smoky barbecue sauce, these fried chicken breast nuggets feature “cridges” — extra pieces of fried batter for added texture. More texture equals more surface area for sauce, and that’s always a good thing.

Teriyaki Madness

Fried chicken trends

Photo courtesy of teriyakimadness.com

Teriyaki Madness is hitting the sweet+heat trend with their brand new “Mad Sauce.” It’s a craveable sauce that starts sweet on the palate but then becomes spicy over time. It’s available for no extra charge on entrées and also available as a dipping sauce. We suggest putting it on your entrée and requesting a little more for dipping.

Zaxby’s

2021 New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of QSRMagazine.com

Zaxby’s is throwing a curveball in their southern lineup with their new General Tso’s Boneless Wings. The meal features boneless wings in sweet plus heat General Tso’s sauce with ranch dressing, crinkle cut fries, Texas toast, and a 22-ounce beverage. It’s an east/south fusion guaranteed to make your mouth water.

It’s Pretty Clear

Fried chicken is going to be a steady part of 2021 menu trends. What better way to mix it up and keep customers excited than with flavorful sauces? Whether drenched or dipped, you can’t go wrong.

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January 18th, 2021

How Pizza Changed in 2020

Posted in Food Trends, Pizza

Pizza Continues to Prove its Adaptability

Pizza Popularity during COVID-19

Looking at how pizza changed in 2020 is a great way to see what consumers want to see in food trends. It’s basically the finger on the pulse of innovation.

Why is this? Because pizza is not only ubiquitously loved in almost every demographic, but it’s also the perfect platform for flavor creativity. Think about some of the crazy pizzas you’ve seen over the past few years: Unicorn pizza, the Hot Dog Bites pizza, or the 30-lb taco pizza from Tony Boloney’s in New Jersey.

While these pizzas may not have the resilience of classic pepperoni, they do prove something. You can put almost anything on a pizza and people will enjoy it.

But let’s look past the more “viral” pizza endeavors to those with staying power. Here’s how 2020 changed pizza forever.

How 2020 Changed Pizza

Crusts Rethought

2020 Pizza Trends

Photo courtesy of foodbusinessnews.com

Let’s start at the bottom.

2020 showed a heavy investment in changing what the crust of a pizza could be. Many of these iterations, like the Fathead Pizza from Boston’s and the trio of Donatos pizzas all featuring cauliflower crusts, were born from excitement around the low-carb diets. 1000 Degrees Pizza also launched a cauliflower crust in partnership with Caulipower®, but their intent was more focused on the power of vegetables.

Uno Pizzeria launched a Sausage Crust Pizza, which, if you couldn’t guess, featured a crust made from Italian sausage. But it’s not all about less carbs. Pizza Hut made a bold move with their Mozzarella Poppers Pizza, and both Cici’s and Little Caesars added a crispy cheese crust to the offerings.

Other innovations included fried chicken pizza crusts, Alfredo stuffed crust, and bacon-wrapped crusts.

Plant-Based Meats

How 2020 Changed Pizza

Photo courtesy of foodbusinessnews.com

2020 became the year of plant-based (PB) proteins. With a mix of trends around health, environment, and the humane treatment of animals coupled with the leap forward in plant-based protein quality, it was the perfect opportunity for PB proteins to shine.

Pizza Hut launched a duo of Beyond Italian Sausage™ Pizzas, Donatos launched a trio of plant-based pizzas, and Papa Murphy’s went with a PB pepperoni offering. All of these options were well-received by the restaurants’ customer bases and show promise for a future of plant-based protein innovation.

Global Flavors

Photo courtesy of foodbusinessnews.net

Photo courtesy of foodbusinessnews.net

Global flavors have been rising for some time now, but it seems pizzas are going to help take things to the mainstream. 2020 had some surprising hits around the concept of globally influenced pizzas.

Domino’s successfully launched a Chicken Taco Pizza, while Jet’s Pizza made waves with their Mexican Pizza featuring chorizo and jalapenos. Also, Topper’s Pizza made a great run with their Vegan Korean BBQ Chicken-Less pizza (also hitting the PB protein trend), while California based Pizza Guys launched a Curry Veggie Delight pizza featuring curry seasoning, potatoes, and garlic sauce.

Finally, fast-casual chain Your Pie went a step further with their Chicken Al Pastor Pizza topped with avocado pineapple salsa, jalapenos, and smoked-chipotle ranch sauce.

Hot Hot Heat

2020 Pizza Trends

Photo courtesy of NRN.com

Lastly, heat is in. This observation, however, is not new, it’s more of a constantly building trend. We’ve seen piquant pizzas for some time, but the creativity in heat is starting to change.

Nashville Hot Chicken pizzas, for example, are a more non-traditional way to get heat on pizza. Chains like MOD pizza are using specific chile callouts (i.e. the Calabrian chile red sauce) to drive interest in new forms of heat. Even pizza adjacent categories like condiments are driving the heat trend. A great example is the growth of New York-based Mike’s Hot Honey.

Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co. combines heat and global flavors with their Latino Pie featuring a spicy poblano pepper mole sauce. That’s a lot more interesting than sprinkling on some chili flakes!

Order Up!

Consumer trends will continue to reshape what a pizza can be, while culinary innovators will continue to reshape trends with ambitious pizza platforms to excite and intrigue. Around and around, we go. Pizza is proving to be the world’s most interesting culinary merry-go-round; whose limitations are only those of the imagination. What trends do you think we’ll see next in pizza? Let us know in the comments below.

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January 4th, 2021

Favorite 2020 New Menu Items – A Review

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants

Cravings for Pizza, Wings, BBQ, and Heat Drove 2020 New Menu Items

pizza-cover-photo

Before we get to the review of our favorite 2020 new menu items, we’d like to wish you a Happy New Year!

Yes, it’s official. 2020 is over and 2021 is here. It’s a warm, wonderful place where hope springs eternal. Glad to see you here with us!

2020 brought unprecedented challenges to the food and beverage industry. From supply chain disruptions to on-premise dining closures, the hits just kept coming. But if there’s one thing our industry is known for, it’s perseverance and adaptability.

Therefore, it’s those characteristics we want to celebrate today. To do so, we’re looking at some of the best new menu items that rolled out in 2020. Not only do these illustrate what 2020 was like, they also offer insight into what 2021 could bring. Will the plant-based revolution continue? Will spicy and smoky flavors continue to penetrate menus nationally? Will everyone just start selling chicken wings!?

I’d guess at least two of those three examples will happen. But, for now, let’s check out the best of 2020 New Menu Items.

2020 Best of New Menu Items

Fazoli’s

2020 New menu items

Photo courtesy of Fazolis.com

Fazoli’s shirked expected losses in 2020 with innovation and boldness. Aside from launching a to-go only wing brand (Wingville), they also launched the wildly popular Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese. It featured cavatappi pasta in Asiago sauce topped with chopped bacon, fried chicken pieces tossed in spicy buffalo sauce, and Parmesan peppercorn ranch dressing. Speaking of Wingville, they’ve been knocking it out of the park with unique wing flavors like Hot Honey BBQ and Thai Sweet Chile. Can’t wait to see what they do next!

Uno Pizzeria & Grill

2020 New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of NRN.com

The innovators at Uno Pizzeria stayed up late to launch their No Dough Sausage Pie. This low-carb behemoth featured a “crust” of sausage filled with shredded mozzarella cheese and a new, chunkier tomato sauce, finished with Pecorino Romano cheese. If going keto means eating like this, we could get on board.

Oath Pizza

Oath Pizza

Photo courtesy of Forbes.com

The talented folks at Oath Pizza decided to take the idea of family-style to-go dinners to a whole new level with their Care Packages. These mail order pizza kit packages feature all the ingredients you need to prepare and cook their delicious pizzas in the comfort of your own home. The Bestseller Care Package includes one Spicy Mother Clucker Pizza featuring roasted chicken and spicy sriracha sauce.

Blaze Pizza

Image courtesy of Blazepizza.com

Image courtesy of Blazepizza.com

Blaze Pizza also hit the make it yourself trend with their DIY Pizza Kits. These featured a dough ball, dusting flour, sauce, and your choice of toppings to the make pizza right at home. These were a great way to bring families together in the kitchen.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

New Menu Items 2020

Photo courtesy of Grimaldis.com

Grimaldi’s landed on the list this year with their Barbeque Chicken Pizza. Topped with sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, roasted chicken, bacon, red onion, and cilantro, it proved to be a winner with customers. I expect to see more BBQ pizzas with toppings other than chicken finding space on menus in 2021.

On the Border

2020 Menu in review

Photo courtesy of FSRmagazine.com

On the Border responded to dining room closures with their own type of family meal: Build-Your-Own Taco Kits. These featured 10 soft or crispy taco shells, choice of seasoned ground beef or chicken tinga, lettuce, tomato, and grated cheese. Plus, a bowl of queso sauce, Mexican rice, refried beans, chips, and salsa to boot. The perfect complement for Taco Tuesdays at home.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Italian Food Trends

Photo courtesy of FSRmagazine.com

Carrabba’s released a bevy of new items, both planned and in response to restaurant closings, in 2020. New rollouts included Carrabba’s Family Bundles meant to serve up to five people, their new house-made Lasagna, and marinara sauce smothered Chicken Parmesan topped with freshly grated Romano cheese.

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut Trends

Photo courtesy of blog.pizzahut.com

Never one to be idle, Pizza Hut also found footing in the surge of plant-based requests flooding 2020. Their response was the launch of the Beyond Italian Sausage Pizza featuring tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese topped with meatless Beyond Italian Sausage crumbles, and the Great Beyond Pizza featuring Beyond Italian Sausage, chopped tomatoes, sliced red onions, and banana peppers. Pizza Hut also satisfied customers’ love for heat with the launch of their Nashville Hot chicken wings. Zesty!

So Long 2020, It’s Been Bittersweet

So, let’s celebrate the wins and band together to make 2021 a year even more memorable through menu innovation and flavor experiences. Consumers are looking for bold moves this year, let’s not disappoint!

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December 21st, 2020

How Restaurants Succeed During a Pandemic

Posted in Restaurants, Technology

Learning How 3 Restaurants Have Grown During COVID

How Restaurants Succeed During a Pandemic

There’s no doubt we’ll all take many lessons from 2020, one of which needs to be how restaurants succeed during a pandemic.

This week, we’re highlighting three restaurants that have found ways to not only survive, but even grow during COVID. Let’s see what lessons we can learn from their successes.

Wingstop

Restaurant successes during a pandemic

Image courtesy of wingstop.com

With an over 25% increase in sales in quarter 3 and consistent gains over the year, Dallas, TX based Wingstop has shirked pandemic expectations. Not only are sales up, but they also launched 43 new stores over the year.

One thing that has helped Wingstop stay profitable is their willingness to adapt and innovate. When expected shortages and price increases threatened chicken wing supplies, the company began experimenting with bone-in chicken thighs to much success.

They’ve also tested the idea of launching ghost kitchens if necessary and have continually invested in technology. This has led to the digital share of Wingstop’s sales to rise 62% this year. The company’s executive leadership credits a combination of culture, technology, and old-fashioned product quality for their current stability.

Domino’s Pizza

Restaurants winning the pandemic

Image courtesy of Dominos.com

Domino’s Pizza reported a 17.5% increase in U.S. same-store sales in the third quarter, which was is strongest sales performance in decades. New product launches and innovation played a strong role in Domino’s success. Specifically, the popularity of the Cheeseburger and Chicken Taco pizzas, plus the redesigned chicken wings.

Additionally, their previous investment in ordering technology has paid off dividends during the pandemic. Where many companies had to pivot in order to launch non-traditional methods of ordering, Domino’s already had these pieces in place. Specifically, the “car-side” delivery option has proven extremely popular.

All of this, however, has to be balanced against the higher costs incurred during the pandemic. While sales are up, so are costs, including safety and sanitation, food costs due to supply chain issues, and employee related costs due to increased sick days. Not to mention, mandated early closing times in high infection rate areas. But none of this overshadows the successes of the model put in place.

Fazoli’s

Pandemic restaurant trends

Image courtesy of Fazolis.com

Fazoli’s has shown an incredible trajectory of growth all year, closing quarter 3 with a 14 percent sales increase, 10 percent increase in traffic, and 217 percent increase in online ordering year-over-year. Against the background of the pandemic, these numbers are nearly unbelievable.

CEO Charles Howard credits this success to serving “craveable Italian dishes at an incredible value” with focuses on service and convenience. With that, some credit does go to the introduction of their virtual wing concept, Wingville.

Since the full company launch in October, Wingville has raked in $350,000 at 56 company locations, and franchisees who are offering Wingville experienced nearly $100,000 in sales in November alone.

Common Threads

common-thread

There are a few common threads one can observe from the success of these companies during such trying times.

Portability is Key

With off-premise dining becoming the primary function of restaurants, and the likelihood that it will remain popular, having a product that can maintain quality during delivery is important. Foods like wings, pizza, and pastas are excellently suited to this.

If your food isn’t inherently suited to take-out, it would be worth looking into how the process can be improved or offering a limited menu for off-premise dining.

Familiarity

Pizza, Italian foods, and chicken wings are all popular, ubiquitous items. For a diner, this means there’s low risk for disappointment.

Value

These companies are all providing good quantities of food for a relatively low cost. When this can be done while maintaining food quality and flavor, it’s a win for all sides.

Technology

Finally, all three companies have put a heavy focus on developing technology or partnering with digital leaders to get their foods in the hands of customers. The ability to access and order food easily through multiple platforms ensures customers don’t have moments of hesitation or frustration.

Congrats to Those Making it Happen

We salute you. And we hope that more of our friends and partners can leverage these assets to ensure the stability of their own businesses. We’re all in this together, after all.

Any tips on how to increase sales during a pandemic? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

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December 7th, 2020

New Menu Items December 2020

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

Smoke & Spice Define December’s New Menu Items

peppers

December is here, which means we’ve got your last New Menu Items spotlight for the year. It’s been a wild one, but I’m happy to say we end on a familiar note.

Of all the trends 2020 has seen, smoke and spice have been a thread tying the year together. Whether it came from comfort foods like BBQ and chicken wings, or the continued evolution of tacos and pizza as a medium for global flavors, smoke and spice found its way in.

December proves to be no different with heavy flavors of smoke and piquant sauces (with one outlier) for bold statements. Here’s what we’re seeing:

December 2020 New Menu Items

Black Seed Bagels

December New Menu Items

Image courtesy of citytour.com

New York’s Black Seed Bagels, a first-timer on our list, makes a splash with their Oxomoco Barbacoa Bagel Sandwich. It features roasted lamb and salsa made with morita chiles and tomatillos, topped with a fried egg and pickles on a bagel of your choice. This item is made in collaboration with Justin Bazdarich, chef of Oxomoco restaurant in Brooklyn, and highlights the trend for specific chile callouts on menus.

Chipotle

New Menu Items December 2020

Image courtesy of delish.com

Chipotle is coming in strong with their new smoked brisket. It’s seasoned with spices including garlic, cumin, and coriander, seared on the griddle, and tossed in a spicy sauce that compliments the smoky flavor. It’s only being released regionally for now, but other chains have found success with brisket (Torchy’s, Arby’s, Little Caesars, etc.) so, I expect this to last.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Food Trends

Image courtesy of FSRmagazine.com

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is another first-time New York business on the list this month with their new Chicken alla Vodka Pizza. It features a standard pizza skin topped with chicken, onions, mozzarella cheese, basil, and tomato cream sauce. Vodka sauces are a simple yet delicious way to mix up the menu by simply combining house pizza or marinara sauce with cream or even Alfredo sauce.

Smashburger

December Food Trends

Image courtesy of QSRmagazine.com

The always innovative Smashburger has launched a smoky Pulled Pork Tailgater Burger for December. It features smoked pulled pork, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese on a Certified Angus Beef patty on a pretzel bun with spicy mustard. An addition of their house BBQ sauce adds a tangy twist worth trying.

See You Next Year, Trend Hunters!

But, before then, make sure your menu hits on the smoke and spice trends. It’s a great way to keep your customers warm and satisfied this winter.

Comment below with trends you’re seeing or how you plan on adding these flavors to your menu. We’d love to hear about your innovation.

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November 16th, 2020

2021 COVID Food Trends

Posted in Food Trends, Healthy

Food Trends to Expect as We Head into 2021

It may seem crazy to start anticipating 2021 COVID food trends, but there’s already plenty of information available on what food life may look like.

As we know, this year has led to the rise of comfort food. The stress of the world around us partnered with stay-at-home orders, food distribution issues, and hoarding led to many consumers wanting to curl up with their favorite food. This nostalgic touch of normal has helped us stay grounded in tough times.

But those same comforts and limitations have led to unwanted side effects on health. Depression, weight gain, and nutrient deficiencies have all been on the rise as we’ve lost time in the sun and access to healthy hobbies. Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumers are looking towards health and wellness in 2021.

2021 COVID Food Trends

Healthy Snacking

2021 COVID Food Trends

Snacking is up across the board. As people work from home and find more flexibility in their daily schedule, they’re also finding more time to snack. 26% of U.S. consumers snack multiple times a day, and another third snack at least once daily; 38% say they replace meals with snacks (usually lunch) at least occasionally.

As consumers work to get back to their “pre-COVID weight,” a strong draw will be to find healthier snacks. Outside of the retail setting, this means bite-size restaurant eats made with vegetables, lean meats, or whole/ancient grains. Even if weight loss is a focus, it can’t take the place of exciting flavor (like bold sauces!).

Plant-Based

Food Trends 2021

Plant-based foods are no fad. They are here to stay and they can provide an excellent health-focused option. Home preparation of plant-based proteins like dry beans and lentils, tofu, and homemade veggie burgers are helping people discover that good nutrition can be delicious. This can translate directly to restaurants, where that exposure will lead to plant-based menu choices.

An important fact to keep in mind on this note, however, is that more than ever consumers are reading nutrition labels. Those labels need to reflect recognizable ingredients. Consumers are actively steering away from ingredient labels that sound like science experiments.

Restaurants can capitalize on this with flavor-forward plant-based options tying into nostalgic favorites. Plant-based buffalo chicken or meatless marinara are excellent options. Both provide immense flavor boosts without blowing out the caloric limit.

Functional Foods

Functional Foods Trends 2021

Coronavirus has done a great job of opening consumers’ eyes to the power of foods and their functions. 2021 will undoubtedly showcase foods that offer a functional benefit, like immune and energy boosts.

This is a great opportunity to enhance dishes by packing them with protein, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, among others. And with family mealtime becoming a norm once again, creating dishes that benefit the whole family will be an added bonus.

Opportunity is Knocking…

Will you answer? Now is the time to start planning your menus and products for 2021. Using these characteristics aligned with bold, craveable flavors, you can ensure your place with the diner of next year.

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