Are you ready for some inspiration to prepare your candidate menu additions for 2018? Let Red Gold do some of the heavy lifting for you by identifying a few top picks for trending ingredients and menu items tracked by one of the leading foodservice databases, Datassential. Our search was for the top seven entrees, sides, and ingredients that will wow your customers and set your menu apart from the competition.
We’ve witnessed the growth of gourmet breakfast restaurants over the past half-decade, and the darling of the menu is Avocado Toast with 111.4% growth in just the past year. Fetching prices from the Cheesecake Factory’s $8.95 to as much as $18 at upscale metro cafes and bistros, this trendy toast is one you should consider.
A maple glaze isn’t just for baked ham at home, but also in the restaurant, with 26% growth in menuing in just the last year. From David Burke’s Kitchen’s Clothesline Bacon, featuring extra thick-cut candied bacon, black pepper, and maple glaze, to McDonald’s maple-glazed walnuts in its Quinoa-Flaxseed Oatmeal, offering a sweet and savory approach with maple instead of honey is appealing to customers and to your bottom line.
In 2017, America truly embraced aiolis on their menus. In the past 12 months, three of the top 10 emerging sauces were aioli. Combining menu mentions of sriracha mayo and sriracha aioli, there was 57% growth, with ideal applications slathered across multiple sandwich and burger menu options. Mustard aioli was up 33.5%, followed by truffle aioli at 27%.
Driven by the phenomenal growth of Middle Eastern- and Indian-inspired cuisine, turmeric will be the defending champion of spice heading into 2018 after posting 29% growth in the past year. If turmeric is too polarizing for your menu, other big gainers with momentum are elderflower (up 22.8%) and surprisingly, cayenne pepper, rising 19.4% in 2017.
It began during the great recession as operators stretched profit margins by focusing on vegetables as sides. Big for 2018 is any vegetable that is roasted, such as Brussels sprouts, which has grown 21% in 2017; and roasted carrots and roasted butternut squash, up 26% and 23% respectively. The sides with the most momentum are black rice, up nearly 49%. Also trending are au gratin potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and hand-cut fries.
Regionalizing a flavor for a menu item can be the key to success. For example, the term “Southern fried chicken” has doubled growth on U.S. menus compared to just “fried chicken.” So, while Italian remains the top ethnic or regional term in the business, the fastest growing terms are “Cubano,” up 24% in 2017, and “Columbian,” up 17%.
If you are looking for winners within the soup category, we recommend that you take a look at three. Butternut squash soup has grown by 77% in the past four years, followed by Pasta Fagioli, then tomato soup or tomato basil soup.
A little creativity mixed with some data are two wise ingredients for the upcoming year. Leveraging just one or two of the insights we’ve shared can make a new year filled with new opportunities.