2007 Menu Development study: Footloose and trans fat-free

B&I on top of cutting-edge menu development.

Ethnic Tales

Ethnic foods are taking off, according to FSD's current study, but how that plays out where the clientele is fond of their own ethnic or regional comfort food "therein lies the tale and the challenge. Through education, marketing and theme days, creative operators are generating sales with an expanded menu mix.

At 330-bed Yuma (Ariz.) Regional Medical Center, Sodexo's executive chef Carlos Ochoa caters to the tastes and preferences of his approximately 300 lunchtime customers, 65% of whom are Mexican. Although born and raised in San Francisco, Ochoa brings to the table expertise in creating the flavors from his own Puerto Rican heritage (on his dad's side), as well as influences from the small Italian restaurant his parents ran in San Francisco's Mission District.

A carne asada
At Yuma Regional, the menu he's developed is heavy on Hispanic-influenced dishes, yet also offers some traditional Italian staples and "in response to customer request and somewhat to his surprise" trendy, upscale California cuisine.

“Typically, every Friday we do Baja fish tacos from scratch, Ochoa reports. “We beer-batter and deep-fry two 2-oz. pieces of cod per portion, and put them into a flour or corn tortilla. Then, the customer takes them to the topping bar to add shredded cabbage and salsa bandera—it reflects the three colors of the Mexican flag with the red of chopped tomatoes, the white of chopped onions, and the green of fresh chopped jalapeños and cilantro. Priced at $1.50 per taco, it's a solid seller."

At this time of year, before the blistering heat of summer sets in, Ochoa is able to set up a barbecue grill on the patio and do carne asada as well as pollo asado (charred meat and charred chicken, respectively). “We have a jalisco, an outdoor deep fryer shaped like a wok. We'll also do beer-battered fish or shrimp tacos on the barbecue."

California cool
Although the authentically prepared comfort food of Mexico is the most popular “ethnic" offering here—and Ochoa has worked in Sodexo's corporate test kitchen to develop just such authentic recipes for the contractor's accounts nationwide—he finds sales are quite high for such Italian specialties as eggplant parmigiana and chicken Marsala. “But customers here are really interested in the newest California cuisines," he points out. They have developed a bacon-wrapped Gulf shrimp with a spicy orange glaze. The glaze is a mix of red chili and orange marmalade. When you simmer the marmalade in a pot it turns to syrup, then you add the chili."

“Folks rave about my almond-crusted medallion of pork loin served with mango puree," he says. “But they'll also accept Greek fare. Some items, such as miniature spanakopita—crispy phyllo dough triangles filled with spinach and feta—are in our catering book and are often requested."

Tour de force
Tipton (Ind.) Hospital is deep in the heart of meat-and-potatoes country, just 30 miles from Indianapolis. In fact, the town of Tipton is known for its annual week-long pork festival. But Andre Lipari, CDM, CFPP, assistant foodservice manager in this 25-bed critical access facility, has been on a mission since the first of the year to expand the culinary horizons of his more than 200 lunchtime customers. “We're introducing them to other ethnic foods by taking a one day 'tour' each month," he explains. “In January, our Italian tour went extremely well. Our chef, Patty Sheward, and I did pasta-to-order. Customers had a choice of three sauces as well as chicken, broccoli, roasted tomatoes, etc. Participation was fantastic although not as good as Greek Day in February, and we expect Polish Day in March will be even better."

Lipari sees interest building as word of mouth gets out. He's also spreading the message to the larger Tipton community through the local Chamber of Commerce newsletter that goes to about 600 locations.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

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...

FSD Resources