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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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 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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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 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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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.

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