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 18th, 2021

How Pizza Changed in 2020

Posted in Food Trends, Pizza

Pizza Continues to Prove its Adaptability

Pizza Popularity during COVID-19

Looking at how pizza changed in 2020 is a great way to see what consumers want to see in food trends. It’s basically the finger on the pulse of innovation.

Why is this? Because pizza is not only ubiquitously loved in almost every demographic, but it’s also the perfect platform for flavor creativity. Think about some of the crazy pizzas you’ve seen over the past few years: Unicorn pizza, the Hot Dog Bites pizza, or the 30-lb taco pizza from Tony Boloney’s in New Jersey.

While these pizzas may not have the resilience of classic pepperoni, they do prove something. You can put almost anything on a pizza and people will enjoy it.

But let’s look past the more “viral” pizza endeavors to those with staying power. Here’s how 2020 changed pizza forever.

How 2020 Changed Pizza

Crusts Rethought

2020 Pizza Trends

Photo courtesy of foodbusinessnews.com

Let’s start at the bottom.

2020 showed a heavy investment in changing what the crust of a pizza could be. Many of these iterations, like the Fathead Pizza from Boston’s and the trio of Donatos pizzas all featuring cauliflower crusts, were born from excitement around the low-carb diets. 1000 Degrees Pizza also launched a cauliflower crust in partnership with Caulipower®, but their intent was more focused on the power of vegetables.

Uno Pizzeria launched a Sausage Crust Pizza, which, if you couldn’t guess, featured a crust made from Italian sausage. But it’s not all about less carbs. Pizza Hut made a bold move with their Mozzarella Poppers Pizza, and both Cici’s and Little Caesars added a crispy cheese crust to the offerings.

Other innovations included fried chicken pizza crusts, Alfredo stuffed crust, and bacon-wrapped crusts.

Plant-Based Meats

How 2020 Changed Pizza

Photo courtesy of foodbusinessnews.com

2020 became the year of plant-based (PB) proteins. With a mix of trends around health, environment, and the humane treatment of animals coupled with the leap forward in plant-based protein quality, it was the perfect opportunity for PB proteins to shine.

Pizza Hut launched a duo of Beyond Italian Sausage™ Pizzas, Donatos launched a trio of plant-based pizzas, and Papa Murphy’s went with a PB pepperoni offering. All of these options were well-received by the restaurants’ customer bases and show promise for a future of plant-based protein innovation.

Global Flavors

Photo courtesy of foodbusinessnews.net

Photo courtesy of foodbusinessnews.net

Global flavors have been rising for some time now, but it seems pizzas are going to help take things to the mainstream. 2020 had some surprising hits around the concept of globally influenced pizzas.

Domino’s successfully launched a Chicken Taco Pizza, while Jet’s Pizza made waves with their Mexican Pizza featuring chorizo and jalapenos. Also, Topper’s Pizza made a great run with their Vegan Korean BBQ Chicken-Less pizza (also hitting the PB protein trend), while California based Pizza Guys launched a Curry Veggie Delight pizza featuring curry seasoning, potatoes, and garlic sauce.

Finally, fast-casual chain Your Pie went a step further with their Chicken Al Pastor Pizza topped with avocado pineapple salsa, jalapenos, and smoked-chipotle ranch sauce.

Hot Hot Heat

2020 Pizza Trends

Photo courtesy of NRN.com

Lastly, heat is in. This observation, however, is not new, it’s more of a constantly building trend. We’ve seen piquant pizzas for some time, but the creativity in heat is starting to change.

Nashville Hot Chicken pizzas, for example, are a more non-traditional way to get heat on pizza. Chains like MOD pizza are using specific chile callouts (i.e. the Calabrian chile red sauce) to drive interest in new forms of heat. Even pizza adjacent categories like condiments are driving the heat trend. A great example is the growth of New York-based Mike’s Hot Honey.

Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co. combines heat and global flavors with their Latino Pie featuring a spicy poblano pepper mole sauce. That’s a lot more interesting than sprinkling on some chili flakes!

Order Up!

Consumer trends will continue to reshape what a pizza can be, while culinary innovators will continue to reshape trends with ambitious pizza platforms to excite and intrigue. Around and around, we go. Pizza is proving to be the world’s most interesting culinary merry-go-round; whose limitations are only those of the imagination. What trends do you think we’ll see next in pizza? Let us know in the comments below.

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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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December 7th, 2020

New Menu Items December 2020

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends

Smoke & Spice Define December’s New Menu Items

peppers

December is here, which means we’ve got your last New Menu Items spotlight for the year. It’s been a wild one, but I’m happy to say we end on a familiar note.

Of all the trends 2020 has seen, smoke and spice have been a thread tying the year together. Whether it came from comfort foods like BBQ and chicken wings, or the continued evolution of tacos and pizza as a medium for global flavors, smoke and spice found its way in.

December proves to be no different with heavy flavors of smoke and piquant sauces (with one outlier) for bold statements. Here’s what we’re seeing:

December 2020 New Menu Items

Black Seed Bagels

December New Menu Items

Image courtesy of citytour.com

New York’s Black Seed Bagels, a first-timer on our list, makes a splash with their Oxomoco Barbacoa Bagel Sandwich. It features roasted lamb and salsa made with morita chiles and tomatillos, topped with a fried egg and pickles on a bagel of your choice. This item is made in collaboration with Justin Bazdarich, chef of Oxomoco restaurant in Brooklyn, and highlights the trend for specific chile callouts on menus.

Chipotle

New Menu Items December 2020

Image courtesy of delish.com

Chipotle is coming in strong with their new smoked brisket. It’s seasoned with spices including garlic, cumin, and coriander, seared on the griddle, and tossed in a spicy sauce that compliments the smoky flavor. It’s only being released regionally for now, but other chains have found success with brisket (Torchy’s, Arby’s, Little Caesars, etc.) so, I expect this to last.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Food Trends

Image courtesy of FSRmagazine.com

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is another first-time New York business on the list this month with their new Chicken alla Vodka Pizza. It features a standard pizza skin topped with chicken, onions, mozzarella cheese, basil, and tomato cream sauce. Vodka sauces are a simple yet delicious way to mix up the menu by simply combining house pizza or marinara sauce with cream or even Alfredo sauce.

Smashburger

December Food Trends

Image courtesy of QSRmagazine.com

The always innovative Smashburger has launched a smoky Pulled Pork Tailgater Burger for December. It features smoked pulled pork, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese on a Certified Angus Beef patty on a pretzel bun with spicy mustard. An addition of their house BBQ sauce adds a tangy twist worth trying.

See You Next Year, Trend Hunters!

But, before then, make sure your menu hits on the smoke and spice trends. It’s a great way to keep your customers warm and satisfied this winter.

Comment below with trends you’re seeing or how you plan on adding these flavors to your menu. We’d love to hear about your innovation.

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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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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.

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May 18th, 2020

May is for Meat

Posted in Food Trends, Restaurants

May is for Meat

Think Meat This May

Why Meat for May? Good question, with a trio of great answers.

Meat, Meet May!

1. Coronavirus Relaxation

Meat Food Trend May 2020

Firstly, Coronavirus restrictions are beginning to lift this month. While some cities have already opened a smattering of retail businesses, others aren’t far behind. And while dining rooms may not yet be open, people will be headed back to work and will be looking for satisfying meals to bring home after a long day.

This is where your restaurant and meat come into play. With some markets and grocery stores running into shortages on meat, restaurants can fill the gap and offer diners what they simply can’t find in stores. And with the prevalence of family meals and relaxed policies allowing restaurants to sell foods and ingredients retail, it’s a golden opportunity.

Even Texas Roadhouse is currently selling ready-to-cook steaks with seasonings, sauces, and cooking instructions. Not a bad idea!

2. May is National BBQ Month

May National BBQ Month

Secondly, May just happens to be National BBQ Month! Yea, that’s a real thing! And Americans are renown for jumping on a national food trend. Plus, it’s no secret that BBQ and smoke flavors have been trending for some time now. Therefore, May is the perfect chance to capitalize on the style.

Dallas-based Dickey’s BBQ Pit is going all in on National BBQ Month with a six-pack of new sandwich options all customizable with sauce favorites. Items include a Kickin’ Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, a Carolina Style Pulled Pork Sandwich, and the Wild Westerner, loaded with hickory-smoked pulled pork, Texas hot sauce, spicy Cheddar kielbasa sausage, cheese, onion rings, pickles and jalapenos all on a toasty westerner bun.

3. Surf & Turf Rising

Meat for May

Photo courtesy of ispot.tv

Nation’s Restaurant News recently published an article predicting surf & turf as a strong trend rising in the current wake of coronavirus. The idea of pairing red meat and seafood intersects almost every cuisine, from Filipino to German, while also being readily available on most menus. Therefore, with some creativity and foresight, surf & turf options could be great answers to the questions of “what do customers want?” and “how can we increase revenue?”

Restaurants such as Ocean Prime, The Cheesecake Factory, and Outback Steakhouse have all quickly realized the potential for this pairing and are driving it on their menus. So ask yourself, what does your surf & turf option look like?

Steak Knives Required

There you have it, keep meat on the min this May and you’ll be sure to increase traffic. Plus, a nicely cooked piece of meat maintains its integrity out of the restaurant and back to your customers home. It’s that kind of transportable quality that will be important in menu designs to come in a post coronavirus world.

Cheers!

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April 20th, 2020

Family Meals Trend Nationally

Posted in Food Trends

Family Meals Over New Items

Family Meal Trends

It like looks family meals are going to describe the trend over the next few (and last few) weeks. With social isolation, stay home orders, and mandatory business closures, restaurants are creatively finding ways to maintain operation. One of these ways, and a very popular one, is with family meals.

Normally around this time of the month we’d deliver the new menu items that have been launched nationally over the past few weeks. But as restaurant foot traffic is at a standstill, innovation is being paused and replaced with accessibility. And what better way to make your restaurant accessible than with family meals for all the parents and kids staying home?

So, instead of new menu items, let’s look at the national restaurants serving up great family meal plans.

Family Meals – March 2020

Cowboy Chicken

Cowboy Chicken

Photo courtesy of CowboyChicken.com

The rotisserie chicken specialists at fast casual concept Cowboy Chicken have launched a whole series of awesome family meal options. You can get chicken meals for four or six, all including large sides, whole-wheat rolls, or chips and salsa. Or, you can satisfy your Tex-Mex craving with their Enchiladas Meal which includes nine enchiladas and three large sides.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Coronavirus Meal Deals

Photo courtesy of buffalowildwings.com

The fun folks over at BWWs are offering family meals of 10-20 traditional or boneless wings (or 20 of each) complete with a large side of fries. Additionally, they have buy one get one deals for wings on Tuesdays and Thursday. Sounds like a great, fun way to feed a group.

Fogo de Chão

Fogo Family Meal

Image courtesy of FogodeChao.com

The meat masters at Fogo are mixing up their normal all-you-can-eat service style with regular and family meals to go. You can find items like dry-aged New York strip, a rack of eight lamb chops, 5 pounds of beef short-rib, and even a cauliflower steak with Parmesan crust. All options include their classic pao de queijo and your choice of sides.

Mendocino Farms

Family Meals 2020

Photo courtesy of DestinationIrvine.com

The whole family craving sandwiches? Check out the Mendocino Farms’ family meal, the Mendo Meal Deal, which offers four salads or sandwiches and two sides for $40.00. Additionally, if you’re short on staples you can purchase a whole loaf of bread to be included with your pickup/delivery. Pretty sweet deal!

Olive Garden

Restaurants serving carryout

Image courtesy of OliveGarden.com

Don’t worry, you can still get your pasta, plus one more! With the Olive Garden Buy One, Take One special, you get a free pasta choice with the purchase of another pasta. With 10 options, everyone can get something they love. This deal is for car-side pickup only. Don’t forget to order salad and bread sticks!

Taco Cabana

Family Meals for Takeout

Photo courtesy of TacoCabana.com.

Taco Cabana is not only serving family meal deal specials, but you can also pair them with a beer or margarita (where states allow). They’re offering multiple variations and sizes of fajitas, along with family-sized sides, sopapillas, and chocolate cake. Don’t forget to grab a frozen lime or strawberry margarita and a pack of 12 or 24 tortillas for later.

Food for the Family

It’s great to see restaurants offering meals meant to feed the whole family. It’s a perfect way to support those at home while still being able to serve food. Hopefully this can offer a little peace to those with restless homes full of kids and parents.

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April 6th, 2020

Restaurants Adapt to Coronavirus

Posted in Educational

Restaurants Use Creativity to Adapt to Coronavirus

Restaurants Adapt to Coronavirus

Restaurants across the nation are working tirelessly to adapt to life with coronavirus. This takes much more work for some.

Many restaurants were already effectively set up for delivery services, while others had (up to very recently) not considered having it as an option. This has led to a scramble to put the framework in place.

But restaurants can’t survive on delivery only. Therefore, many have innovated new offerings, delivery options, and services to help offset the loss of foot traffic felt on their premises and in their pocketbooks.

How Restaurants are Adapting to CoronavirusContactless Delivery

Contactless/Curbside Delivery

We’ll start with the most obvious: Contactless and curbside delivery methods. Several national chains (Domino’s, Pizza Hut, &pizza, Chili’s, and Wingstop, to name a few) have implemented a contactless delivery option. Even the grocery delivery service Instacart is providing contactless delivery.

This is how it works: Customers order their food (or groceries) online and pay ahead. The items are then delivered to their doorstep by an employee (or delivery service). The customer is alerted of the arrival of their food and voila! Everything they need without risk of contamination. This option has helped many restaurants maintain a steady flow of business.

Conversely, for those businesses who don’t have the infrastructure for delivery (or are out of area), curbside pickup has become quite popular. This works one of two ways. First, customers order ahead, then call upon arriving at the restaurant and an employee brings their food out to their vehicle. With the second method, customers order ahead, and their food is placed in a marked bag in a receptacle in front of the restaurant. There’s a bit of an “honor system” required with the second option, but so far no issues have been reported.

Meal Kits

Meal Kits Coronavirus

Meal kits are a great way for restaurants to maximize income on minimal labor. No need to fire up the stoves and fryers for these packs. Just prep out the ingredients, package them up with simple instructions, and allow families a chance to find their inner chef at home.

Crossroads Kitchen in LA is providing lasagna kits, while the Michelin famous Alinea in Chicago offers short rib beef wellington and margarita kits. In San Francisco you can get Creole spiced buttermilk fried/baked chicken from Ungrafted. Even specialty providers like pop-up dinner chefs and caterers have entered the meal kit arena, as exemplified by Elemental Table and Lunch Wired Corporate Catery in Denver.

Some specialty shops have noticed a need for food related entertainment. Buttercream Bakeshop in Denver is preparing cupcake decorating kits for delivery. They’re complete with your choice of cupcakes, buttercream frosting, sprinkles, and other toppings.

Alcohol Take Out / Delivery

Restaurants Coronavirus

In the wake of mandatory business shut-downs across many states, liquor laws have loosened allowing restaurants to sell beer, wine, spirits, and mixed cocktails with their to-go and pickup orders. This is a big help, as on average alcohol represents 20-30% of total restaurant sales nationwide.

States like New York, Colorado, Illinois, California, and Texas have temporarily relaxed the laws to allow restaurants a chance to earn income off these high profit items. And with many of these same areas imposing mandatory “stay at home” orders for the population, alcohol related risks are relatively low.

I’ll Have That To Go!

These are only a few ways restaurants are innovating in the face of difficult times. Most have reduced their menu sizes to support to-go, while some have gone as far as selling groceries out of their walk-ins. At the end of the day, restaurants need customers to keep ordering, and they’ll do what it takes to feed them. Hopefully they’ll order a bottle of wine to pair with that lasagna kit.

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December 9th, 2019

New Menu Items for 2019 End of Year

Posted in New Foods and Flavors, Product Innovation, Restaurants

Chicken Reigns Supreme New Menu Items

Back in September we took a look at some of the hot new menu items hitting plates nationally. This included items like smoked chicken wings, bottomless shrimp with a trio of sauces, and a smoked brisket sandwich with tangy BBQ sauce. So, needless to say, smokiness was on trend.

But here we are in the second week of December and we haven’t discussed what’s been released for the end of the year. I suppose we need to remedy that.

So, let’s look at what restaurants will do to drive sales and close out 2019 strong. I’ll give you a hint, cluck cluck.

New Menu Items

Buffalo Wild Wings

New Menu Items 2019 BWWs

Photo courtesy of inspirebrands.com

BWWs is looking to bulk up its craveability with the release of their newly formulated boneless wings. The wings are made of larger pieces of marinated breast meat and feature a new, lighter breading.

Additionally, BWWs is looking to harness some of their past glory with the release of their reformulated Buffalo Sauce, making it more like the recipe originally introduced in 1982. I can’t wait to try it.

Corner Bakery

New Menu items 2019

Photo courtesy of restaurantnews.com

Dallas, TX based Corner Bakery is going full carb load for the holiday season, putting their money on turned up Italian fare. The new Rustic Italian Panini features ham, pepperoni, provolone, roasted tomatoes, and a Calabrian chile spread.

If spicy isn’t your thing, go for the Chicken Rosa Pasta. This features cavatappi pasta, grilled chicken, savory Parmesan cheese, roasted tomatoes, and a rich tomato cream sauce. Might as well indulge now before looking your New Year’s Resolution in the eye.

Del Taco

2019 New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of Forbes.com

The folks at Del Taco are piquing my attention with one of my favorite foods of all time: Tamales. These new masa miracles are stuffed with shredded pork blended with a roasted tomato salsa and are served plain or smothered with your choice of red and green salsas, or chili cheese.

I don’t see how you could go wrong either way, so best to just play it safe and try them all.

El Pollo Loco

4th Quarter 2019 Menu Items

Photo courtesy of elpolloloco.com

Not to be outdone by Del Taco, El Pollo Loco is also going after the tamale spotlight. However, they are pairing their chicken tamales with various pieces of their famous flame grilled chicken, rice, pinto beans, and a smothering of red chile sauce.

Additionally, check out their unique Mexican hot chocolate made with cinnamon and vanilla. Sounds like a great way to warm the bones during the winter weather.

Zaxby’s

New Menu Items

Photo courtesy of zaxbys.com

Our last restaurant on the list is one I don’t get to mention often, Zaxby’s. The gem of Georgia fried chicken is stepping into the smoky trend with a pair of new items: The Southwest Chipotle and Smokehouse Cheddar BBQ chicken sandwiches.

This is a good sign for Zaxby’s fans, as this marks a great step in staying current with national flavor trends.

Time to Grub!

I don’t know about you, but all these 2019 new menu items have really riled up my appetite. It’s a good thing I’ll be traveling during the holidays, plenty of excuses to try some new foods.

Cheers!

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