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: , , , ,