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18 Fresh Ideas for Your 2018 Menu

February 16, 2021

Fresh ideas are at the heart of every profitable menu. Datassential monitors menus from sea to shining sea and recently published some of this year’s best and brightest innovations. We’ve honed them down to 18 essential ideas for your own exploration.

  1. The growth in A.M. cocktails has driven growth in Bloody Marys. Now, that Bloody Mary flavor is moving to the restaurant menu. At San Diego’s Wich Addiction, they are serving a fried egg sandwich with Bloody Mary aioli. At Philly’s Whetstone Tavern, they are serving mussels in Bloody Mary broth.
  2. Functional foods for breakfast. Coffee Blenders’ line of cold brew coffee singles includes function-specific ingredients such as ginseng for cognition, while Sweet Earth’s plant-based options help you “Get Focused!”
  3. Crunchy baked snacks are a winner with consumers—80% of consumers told us they want baked snacks, the top-scoring snacking trend, and many of them specifically requested more crunchy options when we asked them to create their ultimate snack.
  4. More than 60% of consumers are interested in ordering loaded fries. Try new combinations of condiments to create something truly unique.
  5. Foods on a stick score well with consumers. Take inspiration from amusement parks for your next hit. Grilled meats, fried cheesecake, mini cinnamon rolls, or down-home corn on the cob on a stick are thought starters.
  6. Classic foods with a twist is popular among consumers. At Whitney’s Bar & Grill in Oak Lawn, Ill., they have upgraded their corn dog with a Kobe mini corn dog fried in duck fat, served with whole grain mustard and sriracha sauce.
  7. Unique colors and color descriptors on the menu will create a stir. Black is the trending color—from the use of charcoal to black garlic, black rice, black sesame, and ultra-dark cocoa powder.  What’s your next color?
  8. Venezuelan empanadas, filled with chicken and beef, are big. At the Blue Bonnet Café in Texas, they are creating dessert empanadas—filling them with cheesecake.
  9. You can’t lose with honey. Datassential says that it is consumers’ fourth most loved flavor. Try using honeycomb, which has a chewy, crunchy texture and can be used to upsell yogurt, cheese plates, biscuits, and ice cream.
  10. According to consumer surveys by Datassential, seasonality is the most important factor in a winning LTO (Limited Time Only). Introducing hyper-specific “early spring” or “late fall” specials, or by limiting the LTO for just a few weeks while local produce or seafood is “in” can drive additional demand for a limited time offer.
  11. Publishing “flavor scales” or additional descriptors on a bar menu can earn you more sales. At New York’s Pouring Ribbons, they describe their drinks as “refreshing,” “spirituous,” or “comforting.”
  12. Swap kale for romaine as a healthy conversation starter. The “All Kail, Caesar Salad” at Choices Café in Miami made the switch and tops the salad with sprouted grain croutons.
  13. Bring creativity to your cocktails by leveraging existing items on your menu. No cocktail has more opportunity than a great Bloody Mary with crazy appetizer bites on skewers. Chicken wings, hot dogs, and sliders are all fair game.
  14. Accommodate those who desire less bold flavors. While bold, in-your-face flavors get most of the spotlight, remember that some customers prefer milder flavors.
  15. Remember your childhood? Some operators are using nostalgia to grow their sales, evoking childhood memories by sprinkling fun, vibrantly colored cereals, sprinkling a few cereal pieces in a glass of milk or hiding prize notices on their tables for a free drink or dessert.
  16. Persimmon is popping up on menus, like Pazzo Ristorante’s pumpkin pound cake with Earl Grey gelato and persimmon compote and ABCV’s sea buckthorn and persimmon bowl with whipped macadamia nut milk and amaranth.
  17. Free snacks. Datassential says that 61% of consumers love the idea, especially while they are shopping. Two ideas emerge here: Branding a sweet and salty bar snack for munching at a nearby retailer and serving an enticing tidbit at your wait line offered by a server with a mini-menu. Who knows? Maybe your snack will become a big hit on a grocer’s shelf some day.
  18. Built for social sharing. Charcoal ice cream and unicorn toast started it all. Now, operators are concocting bizarre fare to create buzz on social channels. Pancakes topped with popsicles, edible glitter, and rainbow marshmallows are imagination starters. What will be your social buzz-worthy creation?


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