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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February 3rd, 2020

All Hail the Gastropub

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Gastro-Pub

2020 Looks to be the Year of the Gastropub

Gastropub

On a previous blog we discussed the Fastest Growing Restaurant Concepts in America, one of which being the gastropub (or brewpub). Here we are now in 2020, and it looks as if gastropubs are still on track to be one of, if not the, fastest growing concepts.

While this is all well and good, I really wanted to know why America has such a fascination with the gastropub. Sure, they offer food and drink, much like most bars and restaurants. They also promote hearty socialization and interaction, but that’s not uncommon in the F&B industry either. So why do we love them so much? The answer, I believe, lies in the menu.

The Best Gastropubs in the U.S.

Recently, USA Today released its list of the Reader’s Choice 10 Best Brewpubs in the U.S. These brewpubs span the country from San Diego to Maine, and Chicago to Colorado. What this gives us is a terrific cross-section of guests voting on what are essentially their favorite foods.

So, I thought it would be prudent to review the menus from all these award-winning gastropubs and see what they have in common (aside from beer). The answer? Quite a bit.

Trends

Gastropub food

All the brewpubs that made the 10 Best list are covering multiple food trends, many of which we’ve covered right here on our blog. From smoke & BBQ, to decadent poutines, and a ubiquitous inclusion of Asian flavors and flatbreads. The trends drive the menus, which in turn bring the guests.

The chef-driven style and flavor impartiality of these establishments showcase a unique ability to change with, and even drive, food trends. Customers of gastropubs tend to be willing to take more risks, try new foods, and be curious about things they haven’t had before. If that wasn’t their nature, they wouldn’t be going to a place brewing their own unique, small-batch brewed beers.

Bold Flavors

So, we see up-to-date trends represented with unapologetic bounty in gastropubs, but as we know, that doesn’t matter if the food is bland or dull. That’s the next common trait for these eateries: big, bold flavors.

Across the menus you’ll find items like Gastropub TrendsFresno chili sauce, beer-based BBQ sauces, bulgogi, gochujang, smoked buffalo, and Nashville hot sauce. These come in a variety of applications such as flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, wraps, wings, fries, vegetables, and others.

The point is this, brewpubs are using powerful flavors, often by way of sauces, to deliver unique and captivating dishes to their guests. It seems to be working, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about this steady rise in popularity.

Personally, I’m dying to try the beer-brined house-smoked wings slathered in beer BBQ sauce at 18th Street Brewery.

Kids Menus

Gastropub food

Image courtesy of ptaourchildren.org

Yes, I know this seems out of left field, but actually, I think it’s quite telling. While gastropubs may be craft beer-driven, they’re also positioning themselves as family-focused eateries.

This recognition of the younger crowd certainly allows more flexibility for patrons. The destruction of the brewpub’s “bar” stigma means they have become acceptable for family-dining. This opens access to a broader demographic of parents with children to patronize the gastropub without needing a babysitter.

Also, these kids’ menus are not just afterthoughts. They are well-thought out with familiar items like grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken tenders, and quesadillas, but elevated with items like pulled pork, brioche buns, and house-made mustard. Even kids are getting a it more experimental these days, but let’s hold off on the heirloom tomato aspic for now.

Gastropubs, the New Home of Innovation

There’s no doubt in my mind gastropubs will continue to rise in popularity over 2020. Their creativity, trend-focused execution, and welcoming atmosphere make them a perfect venue for guests of all ages and backgrounds.

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November 4th, 2019

Buffalo Sauce Recipe Twists

Posted in Recipes, Sauce

5 Flavor Additions to Enhance Buffalo Sauce

Buffalo Sauce on wings

Chicken wings, buffalo sauce, and football are one of those combinations that seems preordained for excellence. But here we are, in the middle of the season, and you’ve probably been slinging classic buffalo wings for weeks now. Customers are restless, and heck, maybe you’re ready to try something new as well.

The problem is you’ve got a shelf full of delicious buffalo sauce and don’t really want to buy new product. So, what do you do?

We’ve got just the solution. With a few on hand ingredients you can whisk some creativity into your buffalo sauce and give your customers a new flavor to satisfy their appetite for wings.

5 Ways to Enhance Buffalo Sauce

Buffalo Sauce Wings

Brown Sugar Buffalo Sauce

What better way to balance out the buttery heat of buffalo sauce than with a bit of dark brown sugar? This easy addition creates and clingy glaze for your wings that balances the heat with sweet notes of caramel and molasses. This is a sure-fire way to inject some craveability into your menu.

Zesty Thai Buffalo Wings

If you think about it, red chilies and Thai food are a natural match. Therefore, it makes sense to give your buffalo sauce a Thai twist.

By adding a bit of coconut cream, ginger, and lime juice then finishing with some chopped cilantro or mint you can easily elevate your wings into a whole new world of bold flavor. Consider other items you may also have on hand like red curry paste or fresh basil for additional variations.

Asian Style Buffalo Wings

Here’s another twist for your buffalo wings: Go Asian style. By adding some sesame oil, ginger, honey, and orange juice you can flip that sauce into a citrus loaded flavor bomb. This variation finishes great with some toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onion. Try adding some miso paste if you have it for a rich umami addition.

Asian Chicken Wings

Buffalo Ranch Wings

Have you ever wanted your buffalo wings to just taste like Ranch dressing without dipping? You’re not the only one. And you can bet your customers would be keen to try that out as well.

This is as easy as adding some dry Ranch dressing mix to your buffalo sauce. If you want to customize your own flavor, focus on adding parsley, dill, garlic, and black pepper to your sauce then finish with fresh chives. For a real boost hit it with some creamy buttermilk powder.

Bacon Buffalo Sauce

It really wouldn’t be a list if we didn’t include bacon, right?

There are a few ways to incorporate bacon into your buffalo sauce, but here’s my recommendation. Roast the bacon in a hot oven on a rack lined cooking tray until it’s really, REALLY crispy (but don’t burn it). Reserve the fat in the pan, dab the grease off the bacon strips, and let them cool. Next, blend the bacon in a food processor until it’s a fine powder. Add the bacon powder and some of the reserved bacon fat to your buffalo sauce and voila! Bacon Buffalo sauce!

You can even use this as a base for other flavor variations like spicy bacon maple or cracked black pepper bacon. Endless possibilities!

Buffalo Sauce Recipe

Now Go Create!

We’ve given you the ideas, now it’s up to you to create your new buffalo sauce. Play with what you have on hand, you’d be surprised what you can come up with. Check out this blog for other hot sauce ideas.

Cheers!

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October 1st, 2018

2018 Chicken Wing Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Trends

What’s Trending in Flavor and Texture

Chicken wings are a ubiquitous fan favorite among Americans. Whether as an appetizer, a meal all itself, or, as the focus an event or celebration, chicken wings have not lost their popularity.

 

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In fact, according to the National Chicken Council, an estimated 1.35 billion chicken wings would be consumed during Super Bowl 52 alone! That shows an increase of almost 20 million chicken wings since 2017.

It’s no surprise then, given their popularity, restaurants continue to experiment with chicken wings in flavor and texture.

Flavor Trends

Asian

Asian flavors are pushing the envelope in almost all categories, and while wings are no stranger to Eastern flavors, they’re starting to get funkier, err, fishier.

garlicgingerwings3

That’s right, fish sauce is boosting wings to another level of umami. Pok Pok Restaurants, based in Portland, OR, lead the way with the aptly named “Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.” These crispy morsels are marinated in fish sauce and sugar, then tossed in a sauce of fish sauce and caramelized garlic.

MOPHO of New Orleans is no stranger to nam pla either. Their eponymous wings are coated in a caramel made from fish sauce, sugar, garlic, Thai chilies, ginger, and lime.

On the Korean side of things, Chi’Lantro Korean BBQ Inspired Restaurants serve their chicken wings in a house “Gangnam” sauce that features spicy gochujang paste. A fermented chili and bean paste, gochujang serves as the base for many Korean BBQ sauce recipes.

Smoke

Smoked flavors continue to drift into the mainstream, and wings offer a great medium to play with different types.

pexels-photo-106343

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill amps up its classic Buffalo wings by smoking, chilling, then flash frying for service. Chili’s has entered the game as well with their pecan wood smoked wings glazed in zesty BBQ sauce.

Momofuku Noodle Bar of New York combines both the Asian inspired and smoked trends with their smoked chicken wings made with garlic, Thai chile, and scallions. Wingzup of Austin, TX, doubles down on the char by smoking their wings for 4.5 hours over hickory then grilling them over an open flame.

Texture

Along with flavor, chefs are starting to add different textures to their wings, elevating the simple dish and driving interest.

pexels-photo-1059943

At Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen they are serving up Thai Sticky Wings garnished with crushed peanuts and crispy spring-roll wrapper strips for added crunch. Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken Restaurant goes deep on the crunch by using cornstarch in the breading and twice frying their wings giving them a thin, ultra-crispy skin and immensely satisfying crispiness.

Finally, at Haisous in Chicago you can find chicken wings basted in a caramelized fish sauce and topped with crispy fried garlic and shallots. My mouth is watering just thinking about that depth of flavor.

Keep an eye out for other fun textures like potato chips, panko, and puffed grains as they start to make headway into the mainstream market.

Until next time, cheers everybody!

 

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