December 23rd, 2014

Trends in Bakery Foods: Beyond the Cronut

Posted in About Allison, New Foods and Flavors, Trends

With the phenomenon of the Cronut last year, bakery products are becoming more inventive and just plain more fun. Chefs across the country are looking for ways to set themselves apart from the competition, and hybrid bakery items are the hot ticket item. Some of the best are inspired by the Cronut master, and others are a simple fusion of bakery items from different cultures, resulting in something entirely new and unique. Let’s look at some of the most recent and popular treats according to the internet:

Alfred Coffee – a coffee shop and kitchen in Los Angeles, they have a really interesting item on their secret menu: the edible espresso cup. Most likely inspired by “Chocolate Chip Cookie Shots” of Ansel fame, the cup is a waffle cone, lined with chocolate and served with your choice of espresso or machiatto.  (Twitter: #AlfredCone)

Afters Ice Cream – The brainchild of Scott Nghiem, Afters Ice Cream features a culinary creation said to rival the Cronut, and it’s called the Milky Bun. Essentially it’s ice cream encapsulated by a donut that is made to order. In flavors like jasmine milk tea, churro, and almond cookie, the bun has taken the West Coast by Storm. http://aftersicecream.com/

Creffle Café – Take a crepe and cross it with a Belgian waffle and an eggette (a Cantonese egg-fortified bubble waffle), and you get the Creffle. It is crispy on the outside and has a soft fluffy center and can be served with sweet or savory fillings. One of the house specialties is a coffee marinated meatball that you can tuck up inside your Creffle. http://creffle.com/about.html

The Bruffin Café – essentially the Bruffin is a pastry similar to Brioche that is layered with toppings from around the world, then rolled up and baked in a muffin tin. The flavors lean more to the savory side and include the Indian (Masala Curried Chicken, Chick Peas and Paneer Cheese) and the Spanish (Chorizo, Manchego Cheese and Ancho Chile) among its 12 savory flavors. Sweet versions include blueberry mascarpone and vanilla apple almond. http://www.thebruffin.com

Church’s Chicken – the Oreo biscuit is a thing, and Church’s just rolled them out on December 1st as an LTO through December 28. It is biscuit dough stuffed with Oreos, and once it is baked, it is drizzled with a sweet vanilla icing.

Frangelli’s Bakery – a hybrid cannoli and donut pastry, called appropriately the “Donnoli”. Cut open a fresh made donut and fill it with chocolate chip cannoli filling, and you have one tasty dessert.  You’ll have to fly to Philly for this one though.

Leadbelly’s/Eli’s Cheesecakes – Cheesecake Beignets are a collaboration between Leadbelly’s and Eli’s cheesecakes and consist of Eli’s Cheesecake tucked inside Leadbelly’s burger bun dough. It is fried and then dusted with powdered sugar.

December 3rd, 2014

New Technologies: Coming to a Store Near You

Posted in About Allison, Restaurants, Trends

An aspect of the food industry that cannot be ignored is the pull of technology for consumers. With younger generations becoming more and more technically savvy, adding innovative technologies to the mix in your establishment will draw in those customers that desire convenience, ease of use, and technologies that make their dining experiences more fun and interactive.

National Restaurant News did a recent survey that showed that one third of consumers are paying their bill on a payment app, such as ApplePay, Tabbed Out or Open Table.  Among restaurants in the casual sector, TGIFriday’s was the first to partner with a mobile payment company in 2012 (Tabbed Out). Since then, McDonald’s, Subway, Chipotle and many others have implemented mobile ordering and payment options as time-saving devices for their consumers.

New to the delivery scene, Starbucks will be offering the service starting in 2015, which gives the consumer the ability to place a standing order to be delivered at their convenience. The program is being rolled out with hopes to increase customer loyalty as well as opening up previously neglected revenue channels. They have also made a recent announcement that they are rolling out charging mats in their stores. With the increase in smartphone usage among U.S. consumers, the ability to lay your phone on the table and get an instant charge is an additional draw for techie customers. It seems the company is pulling out all of the stops in the technology area to increase their customer base.

Another interesting technology app, called Venue Vibes, allows the consumer to determine wait times before they ever set foot in the restaurant. The app is integrated with the restaurant POS and tracks the number of open tabs versus the venue capacity to determine the mood, with 4 categories: lively, active, relaxed and quiet. So whether you are looking to hang out in the hippest joint in town or are craving a quiet romantic dinner, the app can find the perfect place for you. It’s available for Android and IOS: http://paywithdash.com/vibes/ .

And while we’re at it, wouldn’t it be cool to order your next pizza with your eyes? Pizza Hut is developing technology to do just that. In a partnership with Tobii Technology, a Swedish firm that specializes in the development of retina-scanning technology, Pizza Hut hopes to be able to simplify the ordering process. By tracking where your eyes linger the longest, the technology hopes to help you build the pizza of your dreams.

If ordering with your eyes isn’t your thing, what about letting a robotic bartender make your next drink? On the new “smart ship” Quantam of The Seas, Royal Caribbean brings you B1-O and N1-C, two robots from Makr Shakr (http://www.makrshakr.com ). The robots are capable of using 30 different alcohols and 21 mixers, with an output of 2 drinks per minute.

The future of foodservice is an exciting frontier and as new technologies emerge, it only promises to become more dynamic. Who knows what innovations will come in the next year, and I cannot wait to find out.