2010 Menu Development survey: In menus, diversity rules

Chefs and operators are becoming more adventurous with their menus but there are still limits to what they can achieve.

Diversity
Hospitals, many of which have a wide variety of ethnicities represented among their staffs, see similar variety in their menu diversity.

“We have two favorites, Mexican and Thai,” says Patti Oliver, food and nutrition services director at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. So, she adds, she alternates menu items to keep both camps happy.

“We have an International Corner in the dining commons, which features different ethnic entrées each day,” she explains. “Mondays are tostadas and Thursdays rotate between burritos, flautas and sopas. All are huge sellers. On Tuesdays we have a curry bar, with a choice of salmon, chicken, beef or lamb, and the house is always packed on that day. The curry is pretty spicy, and our clientele seem to like that. Our cooks make a housemade salsa to go with the Mexican entrées that is very spicy as well.”

At Intermountain Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, Foodservice Director Laura Watson says she doesn’t have any strong ethnic preferences among her hospital’s customers. So, she uses the cafeteria for a monthly geography lesson, featuring different types of cuisine each month.

2010 Menu Development Survey chart trans fats“The total menu will feature entrées, sides, salads, sandwiches and desserts from that region,” she explains. “The most popular have been Central and South America, Polynesian and Italian.”

Large urban areas, particularly in the Northeast, attract a wide variety of ethnicities, which often means operators must offer menus with many influences. For example, Beth Yesford, foodservice director for Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., says her menus offer “Spanish, Caribbean, Jamaican, Chinese and Indian—in line with the many different cultures represented in our hospital.” At Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Foodservice Director Tom Cooley notes that Caribbean cuisine offers him flexibility in several ways to satisfy his hospital’s diverse employee base.

“We have an inner-city hospital mix of white, black and Hispanic working here,” Cooley says. “Caribbean lets us mix soul, seafood and Spanish influences, which seems to work for a lot of our customers. It also works for pork, which usually does not go over well with blacks and Muslims. But jerk and curry-style pork sells well, as do our Cuban sandwiches.”

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
muse school produce

Kayla Webb, executive chef at Muse School, has transitioned the private K-12 day school in Calabasas, Calif., to an entirely vegan menu over a three-year period. Webb talks about her menuing, and how the school’s kitchen earned the title of “greenest restaurant in the world” from the Green Restaurant Association.

Q: How did you help parents get used to the idea of an all plant-based diet?

A: The first year, we didn’t announce it. We were just serving one plant-based meal a week, so it wasn’t that drastic. We do monthly Muse Talks where we invite different speakers to our school to...

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce dirt

Savor at McCormick Place developed the Green Thumb brand for menu items and products featuring its rooftop bounty; the latest is a pale ale made with the first crop of hops grown on the roof. Promoting that branding and the convention center’s green certification has brought in business from groups with a sustainability focus.

Ideas and Innovation
business pamphlet fair show

As we struggle to recruit and retain millennials, we had our current millennial employees invite friends who don’t work for our organization to a Q&A session where we find out why our organization is or isn’t appealing to them, and what they are looking for in an employer. I recommend doing this off-site in a casual environment so you can get honest and open feedback that could be useful for better marketing.

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

FSD Resources