As parts of the country are thawing out, and summer seems to be waffling about whether to arrive on the scene, it’s clear that consumers are hungry for heat. Industry research continues to show the growing popularity of hot sauce, which is expected to do somewhere around a billion dollars in sales over the next few years.

And why not? Spicy blends are versatile flavor enhancers that can reduce stress on your back-of-house team and lower costs. With just a few dabs, you can open up your menu to a world of possibilities, and standard dishes start to become eye-popping, palate-firing social media darlings. With a slate of summer events on the horizon, adding a hot dose of creativity to your brunch menus can quickly spice things up for guests, just in time for warmer weather.

Every Sauce Tells a Story

One of the reasons everyone seems to love hot sauce is there are a lot of options. Different sauces from different regions of the world provide unique flavor profiles. Also, if you thought online fan groups were serious, get a load of hot sauce supporters: Every brand has a devoted army of enthusiasts.

As a restaurant operator, you can harness this passion by weaving a brand’s backstory into menu blurbs, sidewalk signs, and waitstaff training. For example, patrons might be interested to learn that Frank’s RedHot® was developed through more than 100 years of Louisiana culinary history and was used to invent the original Buffalo wings in upstate New York. Or, that Cholula® Hot Sauce was originally crafted in Mexico for THE Jose Cuervo by the beloved cook and abuelita “La Chila.”

Whatever brand fits your concept, be sure to leverage these engaging stories. They can be incorporated into your recipes in ways that differentiate you from competitors, appeal to diehard fans of those brands, and help to create new devotees.

Spicy Sippers

One easy way to utilize hot sauce is by mixing into your brunch beverage service. Start by adding it to Bloody Marys and micheladas for a little extra boost – a Cholula Shrimp Bloody sounds like a must-have for guests. But be sure to venture beyond tomato-based drinks as well.

Hot sauce is an excellent complement to savory, sour, and yes, some richly sweet concoctions. Of course, you can add flavor to spicy margaritas, spicy hard lemonades, and sangrias. It also adds depth of flavor to libations like whiskey sours, popular spicy espresso martinis, and even hot toddys if you are in a cooler climate. Spicy bacon martinis have been hot on the scene and allow for upcharge opportunities too. You get bacon AND hot sauce lovers together? Now you’re cooking.

Shareable Spice

Adding hot sauce to entrées is never a bad idea, but infusing snacks and small plates with some fiery flavor might be an even more cost-effective option in the current environment. Start with dippers for fries and veggies, like spicy ketchup, sweet chili, hot honey, or burnin’ BBQ. Hot sauce is an automatic for oysters and other seafood apps. It can even kick up housemade popcorn or brisket nachos.

A platter of gooey, fried Buffalo mac ‘n’ cheese bites featuring Frank’s will delight larger parties and cross over to sports fans as well. Mix hot sauce into versatile meatball recipes, sliders, protein bowls, and mini grilled cheeses. You really can’t go wrong with some fiery fusion.

Heat & Sweet

Lastly, there may be a little trepidation about bringing hot sauce into your dessert menu, but we’re here to say swicy – sweet and spicy items – can create marketing opportunities, heat up word of mouth, and inject a little decadence for brunchers. Infuse your waffle batter with some spice for an item that can then be deployed across all your menus, from savory or sweet breakfast waffles, to chicken ‘n’ waffles, and even as savory slider bread. You can also mix hot sauce into toppers like caramel or cinnamon sauce to be incorporated into fun, flavorful recipes, including ice cream!

It's a safe bet that hot sauce works best when paired with the rich, intense cocoa elements of chocolate. So, add it into your chocolate cake for a spicy dessert special that breaks the mold. Serve up warm brownies with hints of heat and slightly spicy caramel sauce. And appeal to nostalgia and decadence by serving a spicy housemade s’more with raspberry drizzle.

Diners are emerging in search of hotter experiences this summer season. Splashing hot sauce throughout menus is a fantastically flavorful way to engage new generations of guests, without breaking the budget. Sauce it up!

Content provided in collaboration with McCormick®

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