OPINION: How operators can spice up their menus to maximise summer sales

Summer is in full swing and it’s shaping up to be a lucrative one for the hospitality sector. Not only can operators help customers to celebrate the Wimbledon tennis championships and FIFA World Cup, but the good weather is driving people to eat out. Operators just need to make sure their menus are geared up to making the most of the opportunity, writes Lorna Kimberley of Mizkan.

Summer is the perfect time to refresh any menu. With consumers opting to eat al fresco and pushing the boat out with their choices, now is a chance to capitalise on the latest food trends without making too many changes.

The key is to keep it simple. Many operators introduce a BBQ option over the sunnier months, as well as a wider range of salad choices.

These are quick wins for operators, who can capitalise on popular and familiar ingredients, such as chicken and fish, based on dishes their chefs already know well, but giving them a summer makeover using flavour additions, relishes, chutneys and sauces.

Far Eastern influences are seeing a real surge in popularity at the moment, encompassing flavours from wasabi and teriyaki to sriracha and sesame.

We surveyed 1,000 consumers and found 77% said that they would be willing to try a new condiment when eating out of home.

The results also showed four in five consumers were familiar with at least one niche sauce, including wasabi (54%), teriyaki (53%) and sriracha (19%). Interestingly, this was even the case for sauces that aren’t as widely available, such as kimchi (17%) and sushi-su (14%).

With consumers becoming ever more aware of exotic flavours, there is clearly a high demand for something different that operators can turn to their advantage.

The World Cup will certainly fuel this enthusiasm for global influences and operators should seize the chance to promote their seasonal changes, perhaps using the international vibe to introduce new ideas based on current trends with a worldwide theme.

Despite being famed for burgers and sausages, BBQs aren’t all about meat and it’s important for operators to cater for vegetarians and flexitarians in both ingredients and sauces to accommodate these increasingly popular food movements.

We are striving to make this easy for operators, with all our sauces, including our Branston BBQ which is suitable for vegetarians.

Operators might also want to look at including fresh salsas or low fat options, as well as a lighter dessert.

It’s important for operators to cater for vegetarians and flexitarians in both ingredients and sauces to accommodate these increasingly popular food movements”

The Wimbledon-themed strawberries and cream in an Eton Mess fit a BBQ perfectly as it’s not only an easy dessert to make (perhaps offer a deconstructed one for kids to create at the tables), it also balances a protein-rich BBQ. Using low fat Greek yoghurt or half fat crème fraiche offers a healthier alternative for kids and adults.

As well as new takes on traditional food pairings, we are seeing trends in fusion cooking, such as Korean BBQ, and alternative proteins, such as pulses, rising in popularity.

While it is important to ensure these trends are being catered for, operators must also ensure they are covering all bases, particularly when it comes to sauces.

Our survey shows there is still a strong demand for the classics, with more than two in three consumers preferring traditional sauces such as tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and BBQ sauce.

Operators should also bear in mind how consumers want sauces to be served. Two in five consumers told us they preferred their sauce served in a branded bottle, compared with the 25% who would opt for a ramekin.

Looking ahead, industry commentators The Food People predict ‘smoke’ flavours will make an impact in both our food and condiments, so watch out for smokey variants such as apple smoked and hickory smoked BBQ sauces.

We are also still seeing strong demand for hot BBQ sauces, with our survey revealing consumers feel hot sauces such as chilli, are often missing from burger menus. That said, when it comes to updating a classic, the chicken BLT can be given a simple boost from either a peri peri sauce, or a tangy rich BBQ addition.

Summer brings a golden opportunity to maximise the profitability of any menu. These simple twists on the classics will bring dishes right up-to-date and only require only minimal tweaks in the kitchen and front-of-house, meaning it really is easy for all operators to find their place in the sun.

Lorna Kimberley is head of marketing for Mizkan, a leading supplier of authentic Japanese vinegar and sushi seasonings to the trade. www.mizkan.co.uk

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