With their beautifully organized smattering of preserved meats, cheeses, and accoutrements, charcuterie boards are a major food trend right now.

Whether consumers are looking for a protein-rich snack, a no-cook dinner, or an Instagram-worthy entertaining option, charcuterie hits the mark. And increasingly, customers are looking for easy ways to make their charcuterie visions come to life. In fact, according to Midan Marketing, “Pre-packed charcuterie spiked at around an 80% volume increase in Q2 2020 compared to the previous year. Even once the early pandemic panic buying wore off, pre-packed charcuterie volume remained about 40% up over 2019.”

So how can you create charcuterie boards to tap into the craze? Here are a few tips.

Balance is Key

Traditionally, charcuterie was all about the meats, specifically salami and pate. Over the years, the world of charcuterie has opened up to include cheese, nuts, crackers, and spreads. A charcuterie board should be a well-rounded sampling of these items, and each component should complement the other items on the board.

As a way of guiding your charcuterie selections, think about the rule of threes: Include three proteins, like a salami, a pate, and a sliced item such as prosciutto or bresaola. These provide different textures and flavors and guide guests around the board. Next, add in the cheese. The rule of three works well here, too — a hard cheese, a soft cheese, and a wild card, like blue cheese. After that, it’s time for the bells and whistles. Nuts like pistachios and Marcona almonds work well in this context, as do dried fruits and preserves, which provide a contrasting sweetness to the savory elements. Spicy mustards and briny pickles can also bring in some exciting flavors to liven things up. Tinned seafood, also trending right now, can be another fun component to add to make things interesting. And you’ll need to make sure you have the right mix of crackers, breadsticks, and bread to serve as a canvas for all that goodness.

Offer Choices

If you add all of the items above together, you’ll end up with quite a feast, and a full board with three meats, three cheeses, and extras could get pretty pricey. In addition to creating one set charcuterie board option, give your guests choices to build their own. Allow for a selection of meats and cheeses and include the extras, which typically have a lower cost. That way guests can control which elements are on their board, creating a custom experience where they get exactly what they want.

Stay On Brand

Charcuterie is everywhere, so think about what charcuterie could look like according to your unique brand. If your restaurant is focused on sustainability, look for preserved vegetables or sustainably raised meats and cheeses. If you specialize in food from a specific region of the world, use those flavors to guide your charcuterie development. With so many options on the market right now, successful operators will create charcuterie options that are special, memorable, and exciting.

Charcuterie To-Go

If your charcuterie selections don’t appear on your to-go menu, you’re missing a big opportunity. As we discussed earlier, grab-and-go charcuterie options are extremely popular right now, and the rise of online menus makes it easier than ever to offer custom charcuterie boards for your guests, both to-go and via delivery. If you have a grab-and-go display in your restaurant, adding a simple meat and cheese board is definitely a good move.

Consider the full experience when selling charcuterie boards to be enjoyed out of your restaurant. Think about the packaging to ensure that items don’t intermingle. Small deli containers or lidded portion cups can help keep items apart until they’re ready to be presented. Include some simple directions to guide customers through putting the pieces together so that the final product looks like something they might find in your restaurant.

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