2005 Menu Development Survey: Dishing it out

Many of the largest organizations in foodservice have revamped, overhauled or otherwise upgraded their menus in recent years.

And for 2005, the study added a section on display cooking. Following are summaries of each area based upon examination of response data.

By cycle: According to the survey, 80% of operators are on a menu cycle, the most common of which lasts four weeks. Previous surveys had suggested some change in this pattern might be on its way, but not much materialized.

Trade shows and conferences are the No.1 source of new ideas in menu concepts, respondents indicate, followed by casual and family restaurants as well as quick-serve concepts—proving that non-commercial operators look as much to the commercial side of the industry for inspiration as they do their peers in education, healthcare and corporate dining.

They also consult chef associations and conduct focus groups.

Ethnic influence: The FSD survey shows that non-commercial operators continue to place heavy emphasis on ethnic menus, as their customer base continues to diversify while seeking newer cuisines and bolder flavors and meal experiences in order to satisfy their increasingly sophisticated palates.

The popularity of ethnic foods remains high in menu development, and authenticity is mandatory. “Guests are requesting the real thing,” says Andrew Lackmann, vice president of Lackmann Food Service. Rick Postiglione, ceo of Compass Group’s B&I sector, adds, “Ethnic cuisine continues to be the menu of choice.”

Mexican and Asian foods continue to dominate the non-commercial ethnic menu landscape, while the Mediterranean/Greek category shows signs of growth—and in some markets, Indian food is making a significant showing. In fact, respondents indicate that Indian tops the list of ethnic cuisines they plan to add this year; there’s also clear influence from the Middle East and rising interest in the Mediterranean/Greek category.

Operators suggest there’s a lot more to ethnic menu implementation than just the decision about what to serve. The top challenges associated with preparing and serving authentic ethnic cuisines are: preparation and staff training; obtaining ingredients and recipes; and costs, both in terms of food and labor.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
bus advertising jagermeister

Because many locals use the bus system, we paid for some full bus wraps to advertise [job openings within] our dining services program. The buses go all over campus where students can see them, and to apartments where the public can see them. To top it off, the cost wasn’t much more than newspaper rates.

Managing Your Business
line kings girl goat open kitchen

Open kitchen concepts satisfy guests’ curiosity and desire for transparency. But there are some caveats. Here’s how to create a positive experience for both staff and customers when the walls are down.

Train to serve

With the back-of-house up front, everybody gets hospitality training. “Our cooks understand the food and what they’re doing incredibly, but translating that to guests requires [soft] skills that need to be honed,” says Marie Petulla, co-owner of two restaurants in Southern California.

Dress for a mess

At Girl & The Goat in Chicago, chef-owner Stephanie...

Ideas and Innovation
regions hospital exterior

One of our new concepts, YumMarket, is a play off our YumPower brand that we have out in the community. We use YumPower in K-12 schools, and there’s a kiosk in a nearby minor league ballpark. We feature only better-for-you choices, such as fresh-made pizzas, sandwiches and healthy grain salads. We want people to know we are taking care of people here the same way we are in the overall community.

Ideas and Innovation
herb garden wall

In high-volume operations, few look at herb gardens as the end-all-be-all budgeting solution. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a return on the investment. The value, operators say, is in the message herb gardens and herb walls send—that an operation uses ingredients that are fresh, sustainable and healthy. Here’s how the growing areas have paid off at three operations.

A cafeteria wall at Miles River Middle School in South Hamilton, Mass., houses three rows of hydroponic lettuce spearheaded by an interdisciplinary group of health, science, math, technology and foodservice employees...

FSD Resources