As we work with our corporate and hospital food service customers, we see menu trends in their Cafés and snack bars mirroring what’s trending in restaurants today. Many of the Cafés have added grills, pizza stations, grab ‘n go areas and in some cases even a sushi bar as part of their remodeling projects to provide a better dining experience for their employees and guests and attract a high guest count. To appeal to an even larger group of patrons and cater to savvy consumers, many Cafés are also offering menus with healthy and organic food, more diversity and local sourcing of raw ingredients.
Healthy and organic has become an important menu trend as Americans now have a higher awareness for healthy eating, and are more educated about their food choices. Consumers want to see menus that offer fresh produce, leaner protein options, and smaller desert portions. With a growing number of Americans diagnosed with type-two diabetes or heart disease, it has become greatly important to offer a menu balanced with food options which help manage these conditions. Flagging menu items as heart healthy or offering a discount on healthy menu items is a great way to promote healthy eating, while informing guests that you offer these options to them. Healthful food choices can range from leaner breakfast proteins like turkey bacon and turkey sausage to smaller desert portions offered at lunch and dinner. Catering to health conscious consumers doesn’t mean a hugely popular chicken fried steak or rich macaroni and cheese entre must be removed from the menu rotation completely. It’s just about offering a range of choices that caters to many needs.
Consumers are also looking for diversity in their dining experience, so a second trend emerging in Cafés is the availability of authentic dishes from various parts of the world. Taking another cue from commercial restaurants and fast serves, the Cafés menu often showcases cultural dishes from countries like Mexico, Argentina or Vietnam. The spices, herbs and raw ingredients for these dishes have become much more widely available than in past years, making it possible for chefs to create their own authentic versions or fusions in their food service operations.
The educated café patron is now aware of what’s in season, and which raw ingredients can be locally sourced. These consumers want to be informed of where their food came from, and may even expect to see nutritional and sourcing data. Not only does sourcing locally satisfy a growing culinary preference, but it’s often less costly and certainly a greener alternative.
Let us know what exciting new items you have added to your menus, and they performed in your Café.
Author: Kathy de la Torre, ARBA Retail Systems