The name of the foodservice game is always innovation. Now, more than ever before, consumers are clamoring for new ingredients, unusual food pairings, bold and exotic tastes from around the world, eye-catching dishes, presentation with a flair, and anything that offers them a ‘wow’ eating-out experience. The very concept of ‘the adventurous consumer’ is where it’s at, so let’s find out how your restaurant, catering service, bar, bakery, food truck, pizza shop, ice cream parlor, or fast-food joint can spice things up and deliver what daring diners are seeking.
In the quest for exciting and novel food experiences, the rule of thumb in the food-and-beverage industry is: The bolder, the better. So, what pioneering ingredients are you offering your customers? What pièce de résistance can your chefs conjure up to ensure that what you are serving is a game-changer? To help stir your culinary creative juices – and boost your biz – here is a generous serving of menu ideas from around the world.
Globe-Trotting Consumers Seek International Flavors
International foods are most definitely on current menus. Thanks to the Internet and sites like Instagram and Pinterest, customers are aware of what’s being served around the globe and they are ravenous for a piece of the action. Furthermore, Global Data surveys reveal that millennials (today’s largest dining-out demographic) view eating as a means of exploring the world, and Innova Market Insights’ director of innovation, Lu Ann Williams, adds: “Food is now entertainment, in and out of the home. Nowadays, you can experience eating like Marco Polo along the spice route in a London restaurant, try tasting menus, or have anything you want be delivered at home.”
As the sophistication of consumers’ palates grows, local fanfare may no longer make the grade. You can cater to your adventurous consumers by providing a more worldly menu and a culinary experience that leaves a lasting impression.
International Foods and Beverages Appearing in U.S. Menus
The good news is that the number of global ingredients entering the U.S. market is on the rise, allowing your menu to be the answer to your customers cross-cultural cravings. Here are some foods and beverages making their U.S restaurant debuts:
- Mexican cuisine is in, including ingredients and dishes such as: papalo, a cilantro-like herb which is being grown in hydroponic environments for high-end chefs; ‘crazy watermelon’ or ‘sandia loca,’ featuring a head-turning concoction of fruit, fruit juice, and tajin; tajin, a seasoning made from chili peppers, lime juice, and salt that has experienced an 800% menu growth in only four years. Tajin is easy to add to familiar recipes and dishes and tasty with tacos, fajitas, pastas, sauces, pizza, vegetables, and even cocktails.
- Cheese Tea is a great offering for novelty-seeking brew lovers. An Asian iced tea, its claim to fame is its variety of foamy toppings made from cream cheese, milk, whipped cream, and salt. Add to black, matcha, or oolong tea – and voila!
- Middle Eastern cuisine menu ideas: Barberries, a tart-yet-sweet dry berry from Persia is being added to yogurts, oatmeal, and salads; Gazoz, a drink created in Israel and considered the very first mocktail, combines sparkling water with fruit syrups, flowers, and herbs; Arabic Ice Cream, aka Booza or Dondurma, is one of the hottest cold desserts to hit the food industry! Customers seeking an ice cream adventure are in for a treat – and for a ride. A Turkish and tourists’ delight, dondurma is richer than gelato and boasts a one-of-a-kind taffy-like, stretchy texture that not only prevents it from melting in the sun, but which allows street vendors to juggle the cones.
- And while we’re on the topic of global ice creams, introduce your customers to the tastes of Japanese black sesame ice cream, Thai fried ice cream rolls (both of which your chef can make in your own restaurant), and mochi ice cream dumplings, featuring an ice-cream ball wrapped in a sweet rice dough with a mild marshmallow flavor. These desserts are being dubbed the new American finger food and mochi boutiques are already popular in some states.
- For an additional international flair, consider spicing up your dishes with the bold flavors of the Ethiopian spice berbere, the North-African spice ras el hanout, Brazilian/South American abra-cassava (a potato relative that is being used in gluten-free recipes and to make chips and snacks), the dukkah condiment from Egypt, and the zesty taste of urfa chillies, which are being paired with a wide variety of foods.
Pushing the Beverage Boundaries
With industry experts calling 2019 the year of the adventurous consumer, one way you can push the boundaries and blaze a new trail for your customers is to update your beverage menu. Some of the latest offerings to consider include: Coffee Cascara Brews, aka fruit coffee, where coffee is infused with ingredients such as dried cherry husks; non-alcoholic mocktails; collagen-infused shakes and smoothies (aka edible beauty); mushroom-infused lattes; pea protein shakes. Even water has been given a modern-day makeover with the likes of agua frescas, cactus water, and other fruit-and veggie-infused varieties.
The Old is New Again
If going global is not a good fit for your customers or for your restaurant, your stomachs can rest easy for there is still plenty of room for nostalgia and tradition in the food industry. For example, ancient seeds and grains that were a food staple thousands of years ago are making a comeback and have given rise to a long list of new flours, breads, side dishes, and main dishes, each bearing a unique and powerful nutritional profile. Similarly, some of your customers’ favorite breakfast cereals from childhood are reappearing in pancakes, cocktails, desserts, and icings in flavors such as Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks. Also available are cereal-flavored spirits (yes, we’re talking booze) such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch Spiced Rum, Bourbon Honey Nut Cheerios, and Vodka Cocoa Puffs.
Finally, did you know that there is a new in chocolate in town? Ruby Chocolate made its debut only two years ago when Nestle’s reinvented Kit Kat hit the market. Made from ruby cocoa beans, it has been dubbed ‘the fourth type of chocolate’ and joins its white, dark, and bittersweet predecessors.
Pass the 2019 Vegetables, Please!
Little Gem lettuce is one of the new kids on the block in the realm of vegetables. Already a chef and consumer favorite, it is described as a combo of Romaine and Butter lettuce with a crisp texture and sweet flavor. Other new lettuce varieties include celtuce (aka wosun), a cross between asparagus and celery, hydroponically grown lettuces, and juiced lettuce. Forward-thinking chefs are also experimenting with wild weeds such as dandelions and sorrel, and are learning how to incorporate endives, watercress, radicchio, chard, bok choy, arugula, and other new classes of veggies into their recipes.
Become a Food Industry Instagram Hit
With even more ground-breaking ingredients expected to shake up the food and beverage industry in 2019 and beyond, another way to help your foodservice stand out from the pack is to capitalize on the latest restaurant technologies. And no surprise… there is even a ‘techie’ name for the process of leveraging social media and the Internet to promote your foodservice, and it’s called: Data Mining Dining. Software companies now offer product and menu development support to help showcase your wares and induct your business into the Pinterest and Instagram Halls of Fame. Check out what’s available from Foodpairing, Analytical Flavor Systems, Spoonshot, and FlavorWiki, and don’t miss out on the opportunity to tantalize customers’ taste buds even before they hit the pavement!
Foodservice Pros Dare to Dream
Finally, some words of advice to foodservice pros: Join your daring diners, embrace what’s new in the restaurant and catering service business, and dare to dream. Your mouth-watering, head-turning concoctions can revolutionize what people are eating around the world, attract more customers, and keep your loyal consumer base coming back for more. Good Luck making your visions a reality and enjoy the ride!