Comfort foods are performing well on menus. Here are some tips on how to innovate while giving guests the comfort they crave.
Among food trends such as international cuisine and plant-based options, one category of menu items remains largely unchanged. Comfort foods, beloved for their nostalgia-inducing tastes and often indulgent ingredients, will always have their place on foodservice menus. Operators can count on a handful of options—from pizza to macaroni and cheese, casseroles to soups, and more—that they can feature when in need of a sure menu winner.For operators that tend to serve consumers in the healthcare world, offering comfort foods is a great way to signal that they care. Patrons will recognize that their favorite foods are on the menu, which can boost morale as well as general satisfaction with the options being offered.
Check out these tips for changing the way you can present comfort foods:
‘Build your own’ mealsCustomizable meals are a favorite among many families. It can be fun to choose how to top their pizza, soup or salad, and what they mix into macaroni and cheese or a burrito bowl. It also ensures that consumers enjoy every part of the meal. Pre-topped pizzas, for instance, might include mushrooms that guests don’t like, and pre-tossed salads could include cheese or bacon, which might not mesh well with more strict plant-based diets. By offering ‘build your own’ meals on the menu, operators can ensure every diner has a choice they’ll love.
Keep it simpleOperators shouldn’t overthink the kinds of comfort foods to offer. The basics—macaroni and cheese, tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, chicken tenders, spaghetti and meatballs, just to name a few—are all easy to prepare and come together in just a few minutes. What’s more, they’re sure winners: roughly one in five consumers say they prefer sticking to their favorite foods or flavors and rarely try new ones. For these diners—as well as more adventurous eaters who sometimes just want what they know they’ll love—comfort food is king.
Innovate on the classicsWhile comfort foods are fairly straightforward, one way operators can keep guests engaged in the menu is by offering updates on classics. For instance, serving white cheddar macaroni and cheese instead of traditional or offering a globally influenced soup. Soup is a favorite comfort food for many consumers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for variety when they crave it. Try offering spicy options for heat-seekers, or offer interesting toppings such as roasted chickpeas, chutneys, fresh chopped herbs, and more to keep soup interesting.
Operators can also offer more traditional iterations of classic favorites. For example, a roasted vegetable lasagna can take the place of classic lasagna, which is typically made with a meat-based sauce.
By offering foods that are familiar yet different, operators can update menus while offering diners the foods they love.