May 17th, 2021

Modern Comfort Foods: Meatloaf Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants

Meatloaf is Back in the Wave of Modern Comfort Foods

Modern Comfort Foods

2021 is proving to be the year of modern comfort foods.

We’ve seen a big uptick in unique fried chicken creations along with other stick-to-your-ribs foods like mac and cheese and innovative pizzas. And while there’s an increased interest in healthful foods, that’s not slowing down the desire for comforting indulgence.

With this trend has also come a renewed interest in, you guessed it, meatloaf! I grew up having bacon-wrapped or ketchup slathered meatloaf at least once a month, and according to recent trend research there’s a good chance you did too.

With nostalgia (particularly of the late 90’s and early 2000’s) driving comfort food trends, meatloaf is the next logical platform for innovation. So, let’s see who’s doing what with this protein powerhouse.

Modern Comfort Food Trends: Meatloaf

Haywire

Modern Comfort Foods

Image courtesy of getflavor.com

Let’s start with a more unique take on the classic. Haywire Restaurant out of Plano, TX. Their savory loaf is made from house-ground Texas Wagyu and Cherrywood bacon.

The meat is seasoned with panko, eggs, celery, onions, spices, and chipotle peppers, then brushed with chipotle ketchup. Sliced cold, each serving of meatloaf is grilled to order, giving it a touch of smoke and char.

Boston Market

Meatloaf Trends

Image courtesy of BostonMarket.com

Boston Market has long held meatloaf as a menu staple. They offer a more classic approach, featuring ground beef mixed with special seasonings, onions, tomato puree, and toasted breadcrumbs.

But, to add a little excitement to the proceedings, it’s smothered in zesty, hickory ketchup. The tangy, smoky flavor works perfectly with the savory profile. And if you’re feeling extra zesty, sauce it up with their zesty BBQ sauce.

Lazy Dog

Meatloaf Trends

Image courtesy of lazydogrestaurants.com

Lazy Dog Restaurants chooses to really up the ante with their BBQ Bison Meatloaf. Made with all-natural Durham Ranch grass-raised Wyoming bison and flavored with smoked bacon and seasonings, it’s just the right amount of change to be modern, but still classic.

For the perfect finishing touch, the bison loaf is slathered in smoky BBQ sauce. It’s enough to get your mouth watering just thinking about it.

Urban Plates

Plant Based meatloaf

Image courtesy of urbanplates.com

To keep up with trends we had to include at least one plant-based meatloaf, and no one is doing it better than Urban Plates.

Their “Meatless Loaf” features a plant-based loaf of garden veggies, black beans, and organic quinoa. It’s finished with a generous serving of tangy homemade tomato jam. It’s all the comfort, sans the meat.

Just Like Mom Used to Make

Or not. Really, it’s up to you. That’s the fun part about modern comfort food trends, they’re all about inspiring nostalgia rather than replicating it. So, grab a slice of meatloaf, slather it in your favorite tomato or BBQ sauce, and relax in the feelings of times past. We won’t judge.

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May 3rd, 2021

Cauliflower Wings – New Flavor Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants, Retail

Cauliflower Wings Have Officially Emerged as a Flavor Trend

Cauliflower Wings

With 2021 trends leading towards fried chicken, spicy sauces, and vegetables, it should be no surprise to see cauliflower wings emerging as a hot ticket item.

While we’ve seen a few iterations appear in 2020, it looks like 2021-2022 might be a breakout window for the veggie focused snack. This trend was certainly boosted by the increase of interest brought upon by the Super Bowl.

Health conscious and veg-forward eaters clambered to find lighter alternatives to the normal Super Bowl fare and cauliflower wings offered a perfect balance.

So, let’s see how this trend falls into the menu adoption cycle and how it’s currently appearing in restaurants.

Cauliflower Wings for the Win

The Menu Adoption Cycle

According to Datassential’s Menu Adoption Cycle, cauliflower wings are currently in the Adoption phase. This means that they can be found in specialty retailers and progressive fast-casual restaurants.

In fact, you can find frozen cauliflower wings from brands like RollinGreens at Whole Foods and Walmart. Birds Eye also offers a whole lineup of crispy cauliflower flavors available at most major grocery stores in the frozen vegetables section.

By the retail standard, cauliflower wings may be pushing past Adoption and toward Proliferation. But let’s not count our chickens (or in this case, cruciferous vegetables), before they hatch.

Cauliflower Wings in Restaurants

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Image courtesy of BiteSizedBett.com

One of the earliest adopters for cauliflower wings was the movie theatre/restaurant chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Their menu features vegan buffalo cauliflower wings served with vegan ranch dressing.

They’re just the right amount of spicy and crispy and won’t leave you missing their chicken-based analog.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Veggie Trends

Image courtesy of BuffaloWildWings.com

This one should come as no surprise. Buffalo Wild Wings features breaded cauliflower wings on their menu, but here you can select any sauce or dry rub you choose.

That means you have the option of over 26 different flavors to dazzle your tastebuds. We recommend the Nashville Hot if you’re feeling adventurous.

Donatos Pizza

2021 Foods Trends

Image courtesy of Dayton.com

Never shy about innovation, Donatos Pizza now offers cauliflower wings.  Where they differ is that their wings are oven-baked, rather than fried. While only currently available in Dayton-area restaurants, the likelihood they spread to other areas is very high.

Plus, Donatos allows you to flavor your cauliflower wings with any dry rub or delicious sauce of your choice. Here’s to options!

It’s a Cauliflower Revolution

While cauliflower continues to make its way into everything, I for one am glad to find it in wing format. The neutral flavor profile and al dente texture of cauliflower allows flavorful sauces to shine bright. Whether it’s buffalo, BBQ, Nashville Hot, or spicy sambal, there’s no wrong choice for cauliflower wings. Just make sure there’s an extra side of sauce for dunking.

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April 19th, 2021

Restaurant Trends That Helped Them Survive 2020

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants

These Restaurant Trends Helped Bring Us to 2021

Restaurant Trends

As we focus on what 2021 is going to bring, it’s good to see what restaurant trends helped them survive 2020.

Why should we do this? Because, if they could drive success in a market that tough, they’re good tools to ensure survival in other hard times. And I think we all know there will be more rocky roads ahead.

Like the old saying goes, “proper planning prevent poor performance.” So, let’s stay prepared so that we’re ready for anything.

Restaurants Trends for Survival

Streamlined Menus

2020 Restaurant trends

All F&B industry professionals know the value of minimalization and cross-utilization. But, in our excitement to innovate we can sometimes lose track of just how valuable it is.

Streamlining prevents waste, overbuying, excessive labor costs, and much more. Restaurants keen to stay keep serving even in the face of dining room shutdowns found success in cutting their menus down to select items.

Menu mainstays include consumer favorites, items that travel well, and profitable items. Savvy restaurants found ways to use existing ingredients in new ways to keep things exciting.

Sauces are an excellent way to stay simple while promoting flavor. They go pretty much anywhere, and a single sauce can be used interchangeably on multiple items. Buffalo chicken wings, spicy buffalo burger, loaded buffalo fries, buffalo cauliflower, and so on.

Sides and Such

Restaurant Survival Tips

One popular trend from COVID is referred to as “blended meals.” In this case, for instance, a consumer makes their own entrée at home, but orders appetizers and sides from their favorite restaurant.

This can happen in many ways. Make a vegetable stir fry at home, order pot stickers and spicy edamame from the restaurant down the street. This spaghetti is great, but it would be even better with a few giant meatballs and breadsticks from the Italian restaurant next door.

This is another example of a great way to extend a menu without adding extra items. Sell marinara smothered meatballs as a side. Offer any menu sauce as an add-on item. See what innovative ways you can give customers what they want while you focus on food quality and safety.

Bundled Meals

Pizza Trends

Bundled meals turned out to be a great option for families and roommates. Not only could you get a great entrée and sides but having drinks and dessert for one price made life easier.

Restaurants even had the great idea of serving larger portions so there could be leftovers for the next day. This is the type of value, when paired with quality food, that excited consumers who were busy balancing the craziness of a new style of everyday life with their bank accounts.

Box deal pizzas with an-extra large salad and cinnamon bread, family-size baked ziti with roasted vegetables and tiramisu, and whole BBQ briskets with sides, sauce, and bread pudding are just some of the offerings of 2020.

Comfort Foods

Comfort Foods

This is a trend that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Comfort foods of all types are still selling big at restaurants nationally. Whether it’s fried chicken, lasagna, or a hearty soup or stew, they’re bound to make customers happy.

Focusing on foods that inspire memories of feel-good times will be a good idea going forward. Plus, these types of foods tend to allow cross-utilization. Fried chicken can be on a sandwich, in a wrap, dipped, dunked, or slathered. Stews can become pot pies or hand pies, and leftover lasagna can be breaded and fried or made into a soup.

Now You’re Ready

Armed with these restaurant trends, you can be prepared for whatever comes next. Hopefully, you won’t need them. Hopefully soon we can get back to business as usually. But, best to be ready for anything. And we’ll be here to help you make the most out of any situation.

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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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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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November 2nd, 2020

November New Menu Items

Posted in Restaurants, Trends

There’s More Than Turkey in Store for This November

Well, we made it to the first week of November, and you know what that means: November New Menu Items! Am I the only one who hears applause after that?

Anyhow, November is looking like more than just a prelude to Thanksgiving right now. Restaurants are dropping bold new items with flavors like BBQ and chipotle to break up the cranberry coated monotony of turkey season.

Let’s see what’s on deck…

November New Menu Items

Boston Market

November new menu items

Photo courtesy of NRN.com

Boston Market makes the list this month with a bevy of flavorful new items. Offers include a Chicken Chipotle slider, featuring pulled rotisserie chicken with ranch dressing, chipotle sauce and pepper Jack cheese. A BBQ Meatloaf slider with sliced meat loaf, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, and Cheddar cheese. And finally, a Cheeseburger Mac bowl made with mac & cheese, pico de gallo, Cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, and meat loaf. That’s comfort with a twist!

California Pizza Kitchen

New Menu Items November

Image courtesy of fastfoodpost.com.

Our friends at California Pizza Kitchen are making a plant-based upgrade we’re super excited to see. The new BBQ “Don’t Call Me Chicken” Pizza is topped with tangy barbecue sauce, smoked Gouda cheese, red onions, cilantro and Chicketts, a plant-based chicken substitute by Worthington Food Service made mostly of wheat gluten and soy protein isolate. I won’t call you chicken, but I may call you dinner…

Donatos

Pizza Trends

Photo courtesy of donatos.com

Coming in strong, Donatos isn’t holding anything back with a bold pair of new pizzas. The Pepperoni Bacon Duo features red sauce, smoked provolone cheese, roasted garlic, pepperoni, julienne Canadian bacon, hardwood smoked bacon, Romano cheese and Italian seasoning. The similar, yet feistier, Chipotle Bacon Duo Pizza comes with red sauce, smoked provolone cheese, julienne Canadian bacon, chipotle seasoned bacon, Asiago cheese, Romano cheese and Italian seasoning. If you can’t decide, just get both of them. We won’t judge…

Also, Donatos has partnered with fan favorite burger restaurant Red Robin! At certain locations you can now order hot and fresh Donatos pizzas alongside savory burgers and thick-cut steak fries. That’s a win!

The Salad House

Food Trends 2020

Image courtesy of the saladhouse.com

The Salad House breaks onto our list for the first time with a punny new item. Their Crispy Mutha Clucka Sandwich comes stacked with a fried chicken fillet, barbecue sauce, iceberg lettuce, fried onions, Cheddar cheese and ranch dressing. Additionally, they’re offering a Warm Teriyaki Bowl made with brown rice and sautéed spinach in a bowl with teriyaki glazed shrimp, red peppers, carrots, broccoli, onions and, celery. I’m in for the food pun alone!

Give Thanks

For delicious foods. And be sure you’re ready to tackle the holiday season with bold flavors and unique ideas. Diners are going to be looking for excitement on the menu, I hope you’re ready to deliver!

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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.

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