Trends & Insights

Menu Evolution: Giving Traditional Dishes a "Twist"

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Innovation pays. And, it’s not just tech companies that require out-of-the-box thinking to stay relevant; foodservice operators need to be both on-trend and trend-setting to ensure their menus excite patrons and keep them coming back for more.

Innovating with familiar dishes by adding premium ingredients or edgy flavors is a great way to punch up a menu and encourage trial of new items. Technomic has found that taste, signature items and unique flavors are key menu attributes that drive customer loyalty. The food industry intelligence resource also provides operators with some tips for satiating consumers’ appetites for menu evolution:

  • Continuously change the menu: While familiarity may be critical with “regulars,” occasionally switching up a few food items will help recurring consumers view the restaurant as always elevating its offerings and keep them wondering what’s next.
  • Create a signature dish: A signature dish or sauce can be a restaurant’s “claim to fame.” Having a signature dish has been called the culinary equivalent of an artist finding his style or an author finding her voice. It gives consumers a reason to come back for that unique offering.
  • Meet health food demands: Natural and organic foods are trending, and consumers seeking healthier, cleaner options are willing to pay a premium. While ingredient-label insights such as calorie counts, carbs, sodium and saturated fat are important, consumers also are seeking a little more background on the food sourced. Is it local, antibiotic-free, hormone-free? Was the animal raised humanely? “Better food” is not a passing fad.
  • Flavor, flavor, flavor: At the end of the day, the success of a foodservice establishment is dependent on the consistent quality and taste of its food. The demand for flavor is on the rise and spicy and smoky flavors are “hot” right now. Add some new flavor variations to traditional menu items to keep consumers intrigued.

Striking the right balance when evolving a menu is key. Building innovative menus that address food trends and consumer demands must be weighed against keeping familiar dishes on the menu that will appease the regular patrons who have already found reasons to frequent an establishment.

Putting a twist on traditional dishes can be a delicious treat for the ever-changing palate of the consumer. Move over plain, old grilled cheese; make way for a fancier version with some sun-dried tomato pesto. Or, consider preparing that signature lasagna dish on a flatbread base.

A little culinary ingenuity can give a menu some oomph. Click here for some menu ideas that give ordinary products extraordinary flavor.   

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