There are two sides to every coin: consumers want to splurge on dining experiences, yet they still rely on restaurants to come to them via delivery. Guests want to indulge in comfort, but they also want to share that coziness through group plates.

Not a ton of options are experiential, mobile, comforting, and shareable — all at once. So, more and more restaurants are turning to tried-and-true favorites with a cheesy twist.

Cheesy and Communal

According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2024 Culinary Forecast, cooked cheese is set to be the fifth biggest overall trend, and that dovetails nicely with consumers’ continual search for comfort. Since apps and sides are a smart, simple way to order without overextending the wallet, and they tend to be easier to prepare and promote, fried cheese specials fall directly into this wheelhouse.

Popularity That’s Not a Stretch

Research shows that fried cheese is one of the fastest growing appetizer items, with demand increasing by a cheesetastic 20% in just the last three years. And yet, despite that, around 80% of menus don’t currently feature a fried cheese option — which means the door is open for opportunity in items that can be easily elevated with dipping sauces, international spices, and heat.

Right Side of the Stick

With a playful stretch and comfort coatings, breaded and battered mozzarella sticks can be fun for a range of age groups. And your BOH will have no issues whipping them up. A brand like Roma® has spent decades perfecting ideal Italian apps, focusing on quality, high-performance ingredients. Dress up your sticks by wrapping them in house-seasoned bacon or add drizzles of on-trend flavor, such as maple syrup, Buffalo sauce, or an Asian-inspired chili sauce.

Consider cheesy, fried items from app-centric brands like Entice®, featuring hand-crafted bites and a chef-made appearance. Experiment by sprinkling tajin or chili crisp on Entice Breaded Wisconsin Cheese Curds or play around by squeezing plum sauce or hot honey on Entice Breaded Cheddar Cheese Jalapeno Poppers. Even lay out a flight of housemade dipping sauces to elevate craveable Roma Battered Macaroni & Cheese Bites. It’s a pretty good bet you’ll be able to add beverage pairings as well, helping increase average check.

Heading into ’24, cheesy dishes are a great vehicle for combining communal dining, entertainment, and warm comfort in every bite.

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