October 19th, 2020

Detroit Style Pizza is Winning the Pandemic

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

Detroit Style Pizza Hits on Satisfaction & Nostalgia

Detroit Style Pizza

Photo courtesy of Via313.com

Detroit style pizza is winning the pandemic. Yes, big statement for sure. I mean, can anything or anyone really win the pandemic? Maybe, maybe not. But, if anything comes close, it’s Detroit style pizza.

What is Detroit Style Pizza?

First thing’s first, let’s answer what Detroit style pizza actually is. Basically, Detroit style pizza refers to a deep, square pie, traditionally cooked in blue steel pans that were also used by Detroit automotive manufacturers at the time. They have caramelized cheese crusts and a generous pour of sauce on top of the pizza when finished.

Detroit Style Pizza

For long-time readers, you may remember a story we did on Austin’s very own Via 313 Pizza. Now with multiple locations and no sign of slowing down, they came on the scene with plenty of time to reap the benefits of this trend. Their popularity has been so high, they’ve essentially become a monopoly in the market, with no other restaurants even attempting to edge into their territory.

Why Now?

As we’ve noted during the pandemic, comfort food has been a driving trend, finding its way into fast food, QSRs, and brick and mortar restaurants alike. Right alongside comfort food during this trend change has been pizza. Ubiquitously popular, craveable, and supremely portable, pizza has weathered the storm better than almost all of its culinary counterparts.

So, it makes sense then that Detroit style pizza, with its thick, yeasty crust, crispy/cheesy frico edges, and quirky sauce-on-top characteristic, has found deep roots with diners across the U.S. Aside from comfort food, Detroit style pizza also matches up with the new found love for yeast and sourdough. All those folks at home, who learned how to make their own starter or fell in love with the art of yeasted bread, have found a kindred spirit in Detroit style pizza.

Where is it Gaining Ground?

Detroit Pizza

Photo courtesy of la.eater.com

It’s gaining ground in some of the best markets in the U.S. In fact, a bevy of new Detroit style pizza restaurants have opened in Los Angeles, including the likes of Dough Daddy and Schell’s Pizza Hole. And these launched during the toughest parts of the pandemic.

In the last two months in Dallas, three new ghost kitchens have opened slinging the chewy pies. Even the well-renown and highly respected Cane Rosso restaurant group has gotten in the game with their new concept, Thunderbird Pies.

The popularity for this pie has also redoubled in Detroit, its home turf. One of the original makers in the game, Detroit Style Pizza Co., saw their sales triple overnight after popular internet pizza reviewer David Portnoy of  One Bite Pizza Reviews gave the pie a stellar rating of 8.5 out of 10.

Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and Tampa, among many other cities, have all seen Detroit style pizza restaurants open during the pandemic. This shows you how strong the trend is currently driving. Even major chains like Jet’s, Little Caesars, and Pizza Hut have tested DSP in regional markets, meaning it’s bound to keep gaining steam.

Pizza Trends

Photo courtesy of facebook.com/thunderbirdpies/

What’s Next?

Time will tell. But, for now we know that consumers will be sticking with comfort foods, especially going into the winter. While there’s a push for healthier options, there’s also a strong desire for decadence. Because of that, coupled with our deep love for familiar items with a twist, Detroit style pizza has staying power and it’s a trend worth jumping on.

Tags: , , , , ,
October 5th, 2020

New Menu Items October 2020

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants

October New Menu Items Offer Variety and Portability

A new month is upon us, therefore it’s time to look at the national new menu items for October 2020. For those of you familiar with our posts, you’ll know we usually find a common thread that links new menu items together. A trend for spicy foods, or plant-based, for example. This month, however, it seems the trend is variety and portability (with a splash of BBQ sauce, for sure).

As we begin to pivot into the winter months, restaurants are looking for ways to diversify menus to off-set the inevitable loss from inhospitable outdoor dining conditions. One way to do this is to offer items that are easily portable and speak to a wide range of customers, including kids and families.

The October new menu items certainly reflect this need for diversity. Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

October 2020 New Menu Items

Fazoli’s

October Menu Trends

Image courtesy of Fazolis.com

Our friends at Fazoli’s are shaking up their Italian-focused menu with some continental fun. They will now be serving breaded and fried chicken wings in a variety of savory flavors, including mild, medium, or hot buffalo, hot honey BBQ sauce, and Asian chile sauce, among others.

Why this may seem to not fit their Italian mold, it’s a smart business move. Now, customers have lots of fun options when ordering and Fazoli’s found a way to grab another market of consumers with minimal in-house changes.

Lion’s Choice

Menu Items October 2020

Image courtesy of STLmag.com.

Lion’s Choice is focused on grabbing a younger demographic with their new Turkey Dipper. This is a handheld item of roasted turkey and Provel cheese in baked flatbread with a side of marinara sauce for dipping, served with apple slices and a drink. A perfectly complete meal for the kids.

Modern Market Eatery

New Menu Items

Image courtesy of ModernMarket.com

Mod Market is going all-in on their new blackened chicken options. One of which is their BBQ Pizza, topped with barbecue sauce, blackened chicken thigh, red onion, green onion, cilantro, and pepper Jack cheese. It’s a solid favorite among diners with a new twist by including blackened chicken thigh. This item will only be available until November 11th.

O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar

Carolina Gold BBQ

Photo courtesy of facebook.com/ocharleysfans/

O’Charley’s is coming in with a bevy of new family-style meals, but the standout is their new Carolina Gold Family-Style Meal. It’s a protein packed box of six herb-seasoned, grilled boneless chicken breasts basted with Carolina Gold barbecue sauce and topped with bacon and Monterey Jack cheese, served with rolls and your choice of two family-size sides. Gotta love that Carolina Gold!

Velvet Taco

October Menu Items

Photo courtesy of NRN.com

Velvet Taco, a perennial placeholder here on our new menu items list, hits a new flavor profile with their Sweet Chile Shrimp Taco. This is a panko breaded fried shrimp taco with sweet chile sauce, kimchee slaw, angry crema (with sambal oelek and Sriracha sauce added to it), carrots, pickled Fresno chiles, and green onions in a flour tortilla. Guaranteed to keep you warm in the cold weather.

Your Pie

2020 Menu Trends October

image courtesy of facebook.com/YourPieThornton/

The up and coming franchise Your Pie makes the list for the first time with a pair of new menu items sure to heat things up. They’re offering a Hot Honey Pepperoni Pizza and a Sweet Heat Pepper Pasta, both loaded with savory marinara sauce, pepperoni, pickled jalapenos, and finished with a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey. Now we’re cooking with fire!

Make it To Go!

Having a smart, portable menu that satisfies a group of picky eaters is a safe bet to maintain steady business in the coming winter months, as the new menu items above show. It also may not hurt to add a little heat. Make sure you’re planning ahead to keep your customers fed, happy, and calling back for more.

Tags: , , , , , ,
September 21st, 2020

Winter Dining with COVID – How Restaurants are Planning & Adapting

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants

Restaurants are Getting Creative with Winter Dining Solutions

Winter Dining Solutions

As challenges continue to mount, restaurants now must look at planning for survival during a COVID winter.

Outdoor dining and take-out options have certainly helped slow the bleed for restaurants nationally, but traffic is still low. While some areas have introduced 50% indoor dining capacity rules, there are still areas (New York City, for example) where indoor dining is not permitted. Therefore, outdoor dining and take-out services remain the main, reliable sources of regular sales.

But, with a looming winter that could bring ice storms and snowfalls to outpace previous years on record (see Farmers’ Almanac Extended Forecast), restaurants are looking for creative solutions to keep guests comfortable, even when outside.

How Restaurants are Adapting to a COVID Winter

Infrastructure

Outdoor Dining COVID

The most obvious, and most expensive, changes happening are around infrastructure. Many restaurants are investing in outdoor awnings, standalone coverings, and/or private pods like igloos for outdoor seating.

Along with this comes the addition of outdoor heaters, both gas and electric, that will be arranged for the overall area and at individual tables. Additionally, many restaurants are adding shops or markets to their now semi-vacant indoor space to promote the purchase of house-made items. This includes not only pre-packaged foods but even raw ingredients in some cases.

Some restaurants have gone as far as investing in indoor air ionization systems to ensure the air inside is safe and virus free. While this might seem like an attractive solution for many, the price tag can be quite prohibitive ($10k+).

Luckily, the National Restaurant Association is currently lobbying congress for tax credits for businesses adding infrastructure enhancements to battle COVID transmission. This, however, may not see any results before winter begins, so best to not put all your eggs in that basket.

Seating Solutions

Winter Dining Solutions

Along with the infrastructure enhancements, many businesses are looking at the physical seating space for opportunities to add warmth. One popular idea has been to replace outdoor metal chairs and tables with items made from warmer materials, like wood and cloth.

To compliment these additions, there have been investments in restaurant branded blankets and shawls that can be used during service, then either purchased by the customer or laundered before next use.

Finally, to combat wind in outdoor areas, the addition of plants is an option. Adding greenery and shrubbery to an outdoor dining space can not only make it more inviting and create privacy between diners, it can also block some level of wind and precipitation.

Menu Solutions

Winter Food Solutions COVID

Another way to make customers feel warmer when dining in cold weather is to simply provide warmer food. Many restaurants are making dramatic menu changes to include foods that provide warmth, like stews, soups, curries, and chilies.

The other benefit of outfitting a menu with these items is that they are quick to execute. This means the customers time in contact with the cold is reduced.  This is an intentional move to ensure the diner doesn’t have to wait in the cold for too long before their cozy meal is delivered.

Finally, some more ambitious restaurants are carving out other paths to bring in sales including grocery delivery and event-based to go kits, like anniversary picnic baskets and date-night meal kits.

Let’s Bundle Up & Eat!

As restaurants continue to adapt to COVID, there’s no doubt innovative dining solutions will continue to increase. One thing is for sure, it’s going to take a series of small solutions, rather than a single big one, to keep restaurants cooking this winter.

Tags: , , , ,
September 7th, 2020

New Menu Items September 2020

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants

Pizza Reigns for September New Menu Items

pizza-cover-photo

September’s new menu items have just begun to roll out and we’re getting them to you as quickly as possible. Last month saw a big uptick in spicy items and chicken wings, but September is taking a slightly different route.

For the most part, pizza innovation is driving September’s trends. And really, this shouldn’t be too much of a shock. National pizza chains have been able to stave off the effects of coronavirus a bit better than other brands, thanks to their popularity and native to-go style.

So, let’s see who’s doing what this September and how these items can help you find new flavors for fall.

September 2020 New Menu Items

Domino’s

New Menu Items September 2020

Image courtesy of ChewBoom.com

Domino’s Pizza hits the ground running this month with the launch of two new pizzas. The Chicken Taco Pizza features grilled chicken, taco seasoning, onions, green peppers, diced tomatoes, and American, provolone, and Cheddar cheeses.

The Cheeseburger Pizza hits the nostalgia trend with a tangy ketchup-mustard sauce topped with beef, onions, diced tomatoes, and American, provolone, and Cheddar cheeses. Can’t wait to get a bite of that!

Donatos

September 2020 New Menu Items

Image courtesy of Donatos.com

Donatos Pizza continues to innovate with their cauliflower crust, and this month is no different. The new offering is a Cauliflower Spinach Mozzarella Pizza which features a lower-carbohydrate 10-inch cauliflower crust topped edge-to-edge with baby spinach, plant-based sausage, roasted garlic and a blend of mozzarella, Asiago, smoked provolone, and Romano cheeses. Got my mouth watering already!

Krystal

BBQ Trends

Image courtesy of ChewBoom.com

Krystal is skipping the pizza rush and jumping on the previous BBQ trend with their new Memphis BBQ Sliders. These little devils feature slow-smoked pork in Memphis barbecue sauce with pickle flavor on a steamed bun. Now, I’m all types of curious about that “pickle flavor.”

McDonald’s

Spicy Menu Trends 2020

Image courtesy of LifeSavvy.com

The folks at McDonald’s must’ve caught wind of last month’s blog because they’re getting spicy with a duo of new flavors. First off are the Spicy Chicken McNuggets, featuring a blend of chile peppers in the breading, which you can then pair with their new Mighty Hot Sauce. This concoction is a spicy dipping with crushed red pepper and other chiles.

Papa John’s

2020 Menu Trends

Image courtesy of BrandEating.com

Papa John’s is throwing their hat in the snackable foods ring with the launch of their new Buffalo Chicken Papadia. It’s a folded pizza dough stuffed with grilled chicken and onions, three-cheese blend, buttermilk ranch dressing and fiery Buffalo sauce. Sounds like a perfectly complete handheld snack.

Uno’s

Pizza Trends 2020

Image courtesy of NRN.com

Finally, Uno’s is coming into September guns blazing with a new group of hearty Italian classics. First, try the Deep Dish Meatballs made with beef, pork, ricotta, and Italian seasoning baked with ricotta cheese and marinara sauce and served with pizza chips for dipping. Then, go for the Meatball and Ricotta Deep Dish Pizza overflowing with Deep Dish Meatballs, ricotta cheese, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, and Pecorino Romano cheese in a deep-dish crust.

If you’re not full yet, how about the Chicken Parm Sub or the Mom’s Meatball Sub, both served with fries. Or, if all that sounds too heavy, they also launched a Margherita Chicago Thin Crust Pizza, featuring fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato, and basil over pizza sauce on a thin crust. Sounds like all bases are covered (with marinara sauce!).

Ciao for Now!

Apparently, all that Italian food is influencing me. And perhaps it should influence you as well. The weather is starting to turn towards fall and that means warm, comforting flavors are in the air. Jump on trend with your favorite pizza and watch the diners line up for a bite.

Tags: , , , ,
August 17th, 2020

Takeout Dining: The Next Generation

Posted in Restaurants, Technology

Digital/Physical Hybrid Takeout Dining Restaurants Drive the Future

Takeout dining is set to become the new primary way we experience restaurants. Not only have brick and mortar establishments been upping their takeout game, they’ve also been quietly developing their own unique take out only brands.

Ghost kitchens are not a new topic to us here, however, what we’re going to show you today is how restaurants are using their space to host individually branded digital and physical restaurants in the same space. Let’s see who’s leading the way.

The New Leaders in Takeout Dining

The h.wood Group

Takeout Dining

The h.wood Group, the Los Angeles based proprietors of restaurants like Mason and 40 Love, are launching ghost kitchens out of their restaurants across the state. These digital restaurants include Ela Ela (Mediterranean inspired), Mama’s Guy (homemade Italian), Lilah’s (American classic diner fare), and Beautiful Foods (vegan concept). With a focus on quality and portability, these concepts are aimed to excel.

Brinker, International

Takeout Dining

Photo courtesy of FSRmagazine.com

Brinker, the folks who gave us restaurants like Chili’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy, are trying their hand at the ghost kitchen game with It’s Just Wings. Prepared out of the aforementioned restaurants’ kitchens (with over 1,000 locations), It’s Just Wings will be serving bone-in or boneless chicken wings along with curly fries and decadent fried Oreos. With 11 flavors of wing sauces plus dipping sauces, there’s a fit for every customer.

Smokey Bones

Carryout dining trends

Photo courtest of smokeybones.com

Florida’s Smokey Bones is launching their own ghost kitchen operation called The Wing Experience. TWE caters to those who crave wings and includes 14 different wing flavors on the menu including three flavors not currently available at Smokey Bones locations. But which three I wonder…?

The Madera Group

Takeout dining

Photo courtesy of ladowntownnews.com

The Madera Group is leveraging their kitchens at Tocaya Organica and Toca Madera to launch Burritos Locos. Described as an “indulgent burrito concept,” Burritos Locos offers a range of burritos from classic, to Nashville-fried chicken, to Beyond Meat. Customers have the option to add fries or beer to delivery orders as well. Now that’s a winning idea!

I Wonder Who’s Next?

Certainly, many more restaurants will follow suit in making their physical kitchen shared spaced for ghost kitchen concepts. It’s a great way to supplement the drop in in-person dining without having to add new ingredients and builds. Plus, it’s a great way to expand brand loyalty and innovate at small scale. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Cheers!

Tags: , , ,
August 3rd, 2020

New Menu Items August 2020

Posted in Consumer Trends, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants

August New Menu Items See Wings and Spice Rise

It’s the first week of the month and you know what that means: August New Menu Items! Please hold your applause. June and July saw a heavy dose of BBQ flavors, but as summer starts to dwindle, a shift in focus is apparent.

August is showing favorites in wing flavors, spicy options, and cheesy goodness. Sounds like customers are ready to throw that summer diet out the window and start get back to craveables. Grab a fork and let’s dig in…

August 2020 New Menu Items

Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar

New Menu Items August

Photo courtesy of Bostons.com.

The social favorite Boston’s is heating things up with some fun new menu options. They’ve just released Street Corn Nachos, which feature spicy queso smothered chips and a zesty street corn dip which is a fun new take on nachos. Additionally, you’ll now find Jamaican Jerk and Tandoori coated chicken wings on the menu.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

August 2020 New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of Grimaldis.com.

Grimaldi’s doesn’t plan to miss out on the BBQ trend with their new BBQ chicken pizza. It features barbecue sauce, barbecue chicken, bacon, and red onion, baked and then topped with cilantro.

Pasqually’s Pizza and Wings

Wing Trends

Photo courtesy of chuckecheese.com.

Pasqually’s, Chuck E. Cheese’s delivery brand, is stepping up their wing game with 2 great new flavors: Lemon Pepper and Chili Lime rubbed. For the adventurous diner, they will also toss the dry rub wings in buffalo sauce, it’s a mindblower. Along with the wings, they’ve released a Giant Cheesy Bread with mozzarella and Cheddar, served with savory marinara dipping sauce.

Taco Bell

New Menu Trends

Photo courtesy of Thrillist.com.

Our friends at Taco Bell are no strangers to innovation and this new item is sure to be a hit. Introducing the Grilled Cheese Burrito, featuring seasoned beef, three-cheese blend, crunchy red tortilla strips, chipotle sauce and reduced fat sour cream in a warm flour tortilla with a warm layer of cheese. Just, yum.

August is Looking Savory

With all these awesome new items, August is shaping up to be a pretty savory month. Hopefully, these trends help inspire you to try something new.

Cheers!

Tags: , , , , , ,
July 20th, 2020

Ghost Kitchens Are Here to Stay

Posted in Restaurants, Technology

The Next Wave of Restaurant Concepts Opt for Off-Premise

Ghost Kitchens

As global pandemic continues to affect the food and beverage industry, more and more restaurants are looking to ghost kitchens to support their brand.

What is a ghost kitchen? It’s a restaurant kitchen with no dining room that exists solely for the purpose of fulfilling off-premise orders.

This may seem counter-intuitive to most food businesses, who would traditionally want guests to stay longer, ordering multiple courses and conversing over drinks. But that’s all changing now, with safety, convenience, and portability becoming the most important parts of the dining experience.

Restaurants Turn to Ghost Kitchens

Who’s in the Game?

Many national food businesses have been eyeing the ghost concept for years now, considering it’s potential and possibilities of success. In the wake of the global pandemic, rather than scaling back, many are going full steam ahead into development of these concepts.

Famous Dave’s launched a 200 square foot ghost kitchen in Chicago’s West Loop and its success has exceeded the expectations of the owners. Fresh Borders California Pizza executes their menu out of a shared kitchen space with nearly 20 other concepts, all capitalizing on the benefits of the ghost kitchen.

Dallas-based fan favorite Wing Stop launched a ghost kitchen in Garland, TX which requires only about 400 square feet to operate, whereas their traditional operation have a roughly 1,750 square foot footprint. Even brands like Wendy’s and Smokey Bones have joined in.

Other Benefits

Ghost Kitchen Delivery

The model of the ghost kitchen also offers many potential benefits for restaurants. Smaller footprints equal less cost in real estate and insurance. Ordering apps and lack of dining rooms minimize staff needed to execute operations. And scaled down menus, focusing on quality delivery items, means less cost in ingredients and equipment.

And the F&B industry as a whole is finding other ways to benefit. Companies like Kitchen United are building out large kitchen spaces that can house multiple operations in one location. This can mean one central ghost kitchen actually contains a multitude of individual kitchens, customized and tailored to the type of cuisine being made, all under one roof.

Consulting firms are also getting in the mix, helping new concepts develop online storefronts, navigate technology, and creatively minimize expenses. They become especially valuable when maximizing cross-utilization and developing innovative menu design.

Location, Location, Location

 

Ghost Kitchens

Location matters. Ask any business owner. It’s important for businesses to be near their markets for access and delivery. This is another place that ghost kitchens can become a handy tool in the restaurateurs toolbox.

By strategically locating ghost kitchens in high volume areas, businesses can decrease single-store volume and delivery times/distances. So, let’s say you have a pizza delivery company. You could spend the money to set up another store front with branding, imagery, and a place for customers, or you could set up a ghost kitchen that operates to go orders only. Think of the value!

Another strategic benefit is market testing. With smaller ghost kitchen locations you can roll out regional LTOs or test new products in specific markets for a short time. This way you can simply stock a few ghost kitchens with new ingredients and digitally market the new items in specific zip codes. What a great way to gauge your demographic for new flavors and trends!

Should Your Brand Consider a Ghost Kitchen?

It might not be a bad idea. Regardless of what the future holds with the pandemic, consumers are developing new habits around dining out that will be hard to reverse. Plus, the flexibility and diminished cost of operating a ghost kitchen make it a powerful tool in a time where off-site dining is becoming the new normal. Food for thought…

Tags: , ,
July 6th, 2020

June 2020 National Menu Trends

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants

National Menus See BBQ and Heat for the Win

June 2020 Menu Trends

June 2020 has seen a massive amount of new menu item rollouts, but there were two stand out trends: BBQ and heat.

Across the board, the sweet and smoky comfort of BBQ along with the rich complexity of spicy new flavors are holding strong in popularity. This makes sense as we’ve seen a large rise in the presence comfort foods and Mexican cuisine on menus since the pandemic has kept consumers home.

So, let’s check out the innovative items that just hit and how you might be able to capitalize on these trends.

June 2020 New Menu Items

Carl’s Jr. & Hardee’s

New Menu Trends June 2020

Photo courtesy of carlsjr.com

The burger masters at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s decided to go for broke with a duo of new burgers. The Spicy Western Bacon Cheeseburger features smoky BBQ sauce, jalapeno peppers, crispy onion rings, and creamy pepper Jack cheese with a pile of savory bacon. Its sister sandwich, the Beyond Spicy BBQ Cheeseburger, is a meatless Beyond Burger patty with jalapeno peppers, crispy onion rings, and pepper Jack cheese slathered in tangy BBQ sauce. You can’t go wrong either way.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Moes BBQ Burrito

Photo courtesy of moes.com

Now, you wouldn’t normally think Moe’s when it comes to BBQ, but indeed that’s what they’ve done. They’re now offering a Barbecue (yes, fully spelled out) Burrito and Bowl to satisfy your cravings. Featuring seasoned rice, pinto beans, your choice of protein, savory barbecue sauce, and a tangy Southwest slaw. Hurry to get one soon, they’ll only be available until July 13th.

Roy Rogers

June Menu Trends

Photocourtesy of royrogersrestaurants.com

The culinary team over at Roy Rogers are hitting the spicy trend hard with their new Dynamite Burger. This quarter-pound bacon cheeseburger serves up layers of heat with crispy jalapeno poppers, creamy pepper Jack cheese, and a smoky chipotle ranch on a fluffy Kaiser roll. Think you can handle the heat?

Tropical Smoothie Café

BBQ Trends

Photo courtesy of tropicalsmoothiecafe.com

The folks over at Tropical Smoothie Café want to make sure you know they’re about more than just smoothies. To prove it, they’ve launched a smoky BBQ Pork Quesadilla. Stuffed with barbecue glazed pork, queso blanco, Cheddar, smoked cheese blend, pineapple salsa, and pickled jalapenos, it finds the right balance of sweet, hot, and smoky.

Velvet Taco

Velvet Taco seems to always end up on these lists. It’s no surprise really, they’re known for their bold flavors and experimentation. Which brings us to the new Nashville Chicken and Waffle taco. It features crispy fried chicken tenders tossed in a fiery Nashville hot sauce and amped up with peppered bacon, peppercorn gravy, green apple slaw, maple syrup, and a smoky red chile aioli all stuffed in a crinkly waffle tortilla.

Can You Feel the Heat?

Good! Make sure you’re keeping on trend with bold, smoky, and spicy flavors to keep your guests ordering over and over again. Now, I think I’ll be going to order one of each of these new June 2020 National Menu Trends.

Tags: , , , , ,
June 15th, 2020

Could Outdoor Dining Help Bring Back Restaurants?

Posted in Restaurants, Tips

Patios, Sidewalks, and Streets Become Dining Rooms as Restaurants Restart

Outdoor Dining

As restaurants nationwide begin to open their doors again (with limited capacity), creative owners are asking if outdoor dining might be a solution, or part of a solution, for how to restart on premise dining.

Many factors come into play here, but initial prospects are positive. Let’s see what we need to make outdoor dining a boost for restaurants and how it can be done safely.

Outdoor Dining in Response to Coronavirus

Government

How To Outdoor Dining

The first step in getting diners outside is getting enough space to allow diners to eat while maintaining distance. Restaurants and government bodies have been working diligently in cities around the U.S. to loosen restrictions on outdoor dining.

The focus is on freeing up sidewalk spaces, common spaces, green-ways, and even streets in some circumstances, to become outdoor dining rooms. In San Francisco, Mayor Breed has released the “Shared Spaces” act which goes into effect on June 15th, allowing restaurants to set up tables in parks, on sidewalks, and in plazas.

Chicago is taking this one step further by looking at specific neighborhoods that could be shut down to traffic and turned into large outdoor dining centers. Denver is extending the common walkways in places like 16th Street Mall to allow for more tables than just the designated patios. Ideas like this, when combined, could be enough to get some restaurants back to capacity.

Creative Spaces

Drive-In Restaurants

Other restaurants and cities are finding even more creative ways to create safe dining spaces. BJs Restaurant and Bar in Mingus, TX turned their parking lot into an outdoor movie theater and is providing their full menu for diners to enjoy in the comfort of their own vehicles. They’re able to serve up to 40 vehicles a time during screenings.

Weather

Outdoor dining areas

Weather is the always unpredictable factor in outdoor dining, and restaurants aren’t blind to this. Many have invested in over-sized umbrellas, tents, and other physical barriers to keep folks outside and comfortable.

In Amsterdam, Mediamatic Eten restaurant went as far as building personal outdoor greenhouses for their guests. While they might not be feasible for every restaurant, it certainly is a creative solution!

Safety

Restaurant Diner Safety

Finally, and most importantly, restaurants will still need to address how to keep people safe during their dining experience. Most venues still require masks to be worn when not actively eating or drinking. Outdoor sanitation stations have been implemented for customers to cleanse their hands without needing to crowd inside.

Restaurants will also still have to balance the need to have enough guests in seats to cover costs, while ensuring necessary social distancing. Luckily, outdoor spaces allow for more creativity in table designs.

And finally, the issue of restrooms. It will still be important that people do not congregate, so a rush for the lavatory could spell disaster. Therefore, servers may need to alert customers when the restrooms are free, require outdoor lines to enter, or other, more creative solutions, like text requests or pagers.

Ready to Dine Outside?

I know I am. So, use these ideas to create safe spaces for your diners. I know they’re just as excited to see you as you are to see them. And don’t forget to check out our Food Trends During Coronavirus blog for more on what diners are craving.

Tags: , , , , ,
June 1st, 2020

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

How Has COVID-19 Changed Food Trends?

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Food trends during the coronavirus pandemic have, as you might imagine, changed from what earlier predictions may have expected. Isolation and self-preparation of foods has left consumers yearning for comfort and portability over experimentation and presentation.

During a recent RCA PoweredUp session, Mike Kostyo of Datassential discussed this very topic. By monitoring menu and retail trends from over 100,00 national sources, he showcased what consumers are really craving during this time.

Let’s look at some of the top trends highlighted.

Coronavirus Food Trends

Plant-Based Foods

Plant Based Food Trends

2019 marked a major up-tick in plant-based food representation on menus nationally, going from 14% in 2018 to 56% in 2019. Meat sales from April 12 to May 9, 2020 were 28 percent higher than in the four weeks ending Jan. 18, 2020 according to data from Nielsen. Plant-based meat substitutes, had a jump of 35 percent in sales during the same period. The increase for uncooked products was more dramatic: 53 percent for the vegan products versus 34 percent for meat.

Environmental concerns among consumers are also a driver for this trend. In fact, 21% of consumers are interested in plant-based foods for the environmental impact alone. Generation Z is undoubtedly the leader in plant-based food interest, with 64% of Gen. Zs having tried it and 1 in 5 saying they love it. So, if your target audience is comprised of Gen. Z, you should be considering plant-based options on your menus ASAP!

Mexican Food

COVID-19 Food Trends

Whether it’s the bottomless chips and salsa, the energetic social nature of Mexican restaurants, or the ice-cold citrus margaritas, Mexican food leads the pack for the most craved foods during COVID-19.

The tough part with most Mexican foods is portability. The crispy, crunchy tacos and tostadas tend to lose their texture, smothered burritos get a bit soggy, and fajitas just don’t have quite the same flair without the sizzle platter.

Many Mexican restaurants have overcome these limitations by providing deconstructed to go kits, creative to-go packaging with moisture vents, and limited menus to ensure what they are selling travels well. As Mexican restaurants continue to learn how to overcome these limitations (to-go margaritas certainly help!), you can expect this trend to strengthen and cross into other platforms, like pizza and burgers.

Pizza

Pizza Popularity during COVID-19

Most experts expected pizza to be a top trend prior to coronavirus and it looks like they were right. Cravings for pizza have not decreased during the pandemic. In fact, according to QSR magazine, in March the pizza segment of restaurants showed the smallest losses (8%) but were already starting to level off again.

There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, pizza is still the most popular food in America. Additionally, pizza has high value, has been available to bake at home for years, and is essentially designed for delivery, so there was no consumer hurdle to get over when dine-in options closed.

Pizza companies have further increased interest in their products by offering plant-based options, family meal deals, and efficient contactless order and delivery methods.

BBQ

BBQ trends

BBQ, the classic backyard event, and the All-American outdoor activity. Couple that with the warm summer weather and nostalgia for simpler times and it’s no wonder BBQ ranks high on the current trends list. Like meatloaf and apple pie, BBQ is a classic American comfort food.

Restaurants can easily incorporate BBQ items on their menus. Brisket tacos, pulled-pork pizza, and short-rib sandwiches are all crave-worthy inclusions that consumers will love. Plus, BBQ is extremely portable and loses very little quality in transport.

So, get those smokers rolling, the people want ribs!

Is Your Menu Adapting?

We hope so. Check out previous blogs to see what other trends we’ve seen and how restaurants nationally are responding. Chime in below with your thoughts on what’s trending how to attract customers. We love your feedback.

Tags: , , , ,