This blog series is brought to you by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), the leading trade association for the foodservice industry. This series will focus on ways to optimize across the entire supply channel and bring consumers back to foodservice.
When thinking about the trends that will be hot for food in the coming year, it can be easy to focus on entrées and forget about the dishes that come before and after the main event. I touched base with foodservice professionals at Technomic and Mintel to get their takes on how upcoming food trends will influence appetizers and desserts.
Simple starters will put an emphasis on flavor. “We are expecting operators to offer simple preparations of fresh ingredients — more rustic fare. Where appetizers are concerned, this might mean bruschettas or topped flatbreads, where some of the flavor comes from the cooking method (grilled or wood-fired, perhaps); skewered meats with an interesting sauce or salsa; or simply dressed salads made with seasonal produce,” Technomic Vice President Joe Pawlak said.
Classic foods will step out of their comfort zone. Tried-and-true foods won’t leave the menu, but different interpretations can turn comfort foods into fun starters that are easy to share. “Twists include use of an unexpected ingredient or ethnic influence. … Meatballs are appearing on a lot of menus — and would make a fun and sharable appetizer. And consider all that can be done with an appetizer pizza. Likewise, mini burgers can be topped with teriyaki, guacamole, jerk spices, etc. Dips and sauces are an easy way to put an interesting spin on a typical appetizer like chips and salsa, chicken fingers, etc.,” Pawlak said.
Desserts will also get a flavor makeover while staying close to their traditional form. “In many ways, ethnic food will influence dessert flavors more than the desserts themselves, if that makes sense. So, while the form may stay constant, like cake or ice cream, the flavor is going to be reflective of ethnic influences,” said Eric Giandelone, director of research for Mintel.
If chefs are worried about offering something too adventurous for their typical diner, Giandelone said, “using these ingredients and flavors in traditional forms is a way to build upon the familiar and still reflect consumers’ growing interest in ethnic food.”
Pawlak agrees that trying out new flavors can pay off. “It’s worth noting that consumers are often willing to try an unusual ingredient or preparation as an appetizer, because it’s less of a commitment than ordering something they may or may not like as their entrée.”
Desserts don’t have to be saved for last. Diners will continue to look for ways to cut cost in the coming year, and Giandelone said offering desserts as more than just an after-dinner option can help persuade customers to treat themselves. “For many restaurants, the dessert menu section is poorly positioned to adapt to changing spend habits. But it’s a fairly straightforward fix. Dessert options can and should be positioned as snacks. This is certainly easier to accomplish in quickservice, but even full service can act on this. Otherwise, with cash-strapped consumers, the other option for operators is discounting or ‘including with purchase.’ Repositioning dessert as appropriate for all times of day can get away from frugality that comes at the end of a meal,” he said.