Condiments: Flavor on the Shelf


Mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup—these are staples that many operators take for granted but they can have a significant impact on the success of your menu. And what about hot sauce, chutney and salsa? These flavorful “extras” can go a long way to differentiate your concept.


All these pantry regulars are filed under the category of condiments.
It’s a broad but important category that’s seeing lots of action in
line extensions, flavor variations and global trends. Smart purchasers
aren’t taking condiments for granted these days; the right mix can
boost your menu items and your profits.


Burger toppers


Datassential’s MenuTrends Direct tracked the use of condiments
across 4500 menu items in chain and independent restaurants. The most
popular burger toppers (excluding standard mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup
and relish) are listed below; the figures represent the percent of
restaurants that have each condiment or sauce mentioned on the menu.


BBQ,19.7%; Guacamole, 5.4%; Ranch, 4.3%; Salsa, 3.1%; Teriyaki,
2.9%; Buffalo, 2.9%; Gravy, 2.1%; Aioli, 1.9%; Dijon mustard, 1.8%;
Hickory, 1.4%; Chipotle mayo, 1.4%; Horseradish, 1.1%; Honey
mustard,1.1%.


The condiment challenge


We asked operators and chefs in different segments to tell us what
one condiment they can’t live without. They also revealed how a
house-made or specialty condiment can really signaturize and upsell a
menu item.


Wesley True, True Restaurant, Mobile, Ala.


Japanese mayonnaise. The wasabi-flavored mayo adds zip to
sandwiches, sauces and more. “We make all our own steak sauces, mustard
and mayonnaise daily.” On the lunch menu: Spicy Shrimp with spicy chili
sauce, crème fraiche, toast and greens; $7


Michael Ferraro, Delicatessan, New York City


Ketchup. Heinz is his brand of choice and it forms the
base of several sauces on this stylish comfort-food menu. The sliders
($9) get slathered with a blend of homemade mayonnaise, ketchup, Dijon
mustard, spicy brown mustard and lemon juice; the same sauce serves as
a dip for spring rolls. “I also like a sweet-sour relish on my burgers
and it complements the slider sauce perfectly.” Ferraro minces
half-sour pickles, cornichons, white onions and scallions and cookes
them down with rice wine and white vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, thyme
and bay leaves for Delicatessan’s relish.


Dan Barash, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Atlanta-based


Sour cream and fresh guacamole. These are the “ketchup
and mustard” of Moe’s—they go inside our signature burritos, including
the Homewrecker ($8.39). “Our pico de gallo (fresh tomatoes, cilantro,
jalapenos, white onions and lime juice) is our most widely ordered
‘add-on’ condiment.” But customers also get to personalize their menu
choices from Moe’s salsa bar, which boasts three freshly made salsas
(tomatillo, fire-roasted tomato and traditional) and two sauces—Rock ’n
Roll (medium) and Hard Rock (hot).


Steve McHugh, Luke, New Orleans


Mustard. Several different types of mustard are always on
hand to use as both condiments and ingredients. “We make our own cherry
mustard too, as well as different types of pickles and marmalade.
Kumquat marmalade and spicy pepper marmalade are two favorites.” On the
lunch and dinner menu is Pâté de Campagne with watermelon pickles,
Creole mustard and country bread croutons; $8


John Sundstrom, Lark and Licorous, Seattle


Sriracha. This spicy Asian sauce is made from sun-ripened
chilies and garlic, ground into a smooth, red paste. It comes in a
squeeze bottle, making it easy to use as a condiment or squirt into a
recipe. Salumi and cheese plates are often accompanied with house-made
marmalade or mostarda—fruits cooked down with spices. “I use dried figs
and prunes in the winter and fresh fruits like peaches, cherries and
grapes when they’re in season.” A menu signature is Foie Gras Terrine
with kumquat vanilla bean marmalade and kumquat/baby mache salad; $18.


Justin Ward, Art Institute of Atlanta and Leapfrog Restaurant Solutions, Atlanta


Soy sauce. “It can take the place of salt and is
extremely versatile in many cuisines—Indian, Japanese, Latin American,
and more. Plus, I use it as an ingredient to prepare my own condiments
and marinades.” Made-from-scratch salsas are another versatile
favorite; they can be made with any vegetable or fruit combo to
signaturize simple grilled fish or meat. Ward’s Pork Tenderloin with
Cranberry Mole and Cranberry Salsa won the grand prize in Ocean Spray’s
2008 Ultimate Cranberry Recipe Contest; it uses “craisins” to add a
sweet note to the tangy Southwestern-style salsa.


Building it better


The folks at Firehouse Subs, a sandwich chain founded by firemen and
based in Jacksonville, Florida, are fussy about their condiments. “Our
mayonnaise and deli mustard are the ‘glue’ that holds our sandwiches
together,” claims COO Don Fox. “We worked with our suppliers to modify
the specs of standard products and create premium formulations and
flavor profiles.”


These ingredients are key to the “fully involved” build of
Firehouse’s hot specialty subs, which feature a unique steaming process
to heat the filling and the addition of mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion
and deli mustard to top everything off. An example is the Hook &
Ladder—a “fully involved” sandwich of toasted bread, smoked turkey
breast and Virginia honey ham, smothered with Monterey jack cheese.


“We branded our sandwiches with this taste profile and build when we
started in the Southeast, and now it’s consistent and accepted across
all 360 locations,” says Fox. Aside from the “fully involved”
nomenclature, the availability of 50 or so hot sauces—all free for
customers to shake on their sandwiches—sets Firehouse Subs apart and
keeps the customers coming. The proprietary Captain Sorensen’s may be
the most distinctive. It comes in a bottle shaped like a fire hydrant
and boasts “a little kick with sweet undertones.” Datil peppers are the
secret. “We worked with crop experts at the University of Florida to
develop and optimize the seeds,” Fox reports.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
pizza toppings

When the FoodService Director editors first started tossing around the idea of an “influencers” issue, our minds immediately turned to, well, foodservice directors. After all, so much of the learning in this industry is a peer-to-peer experience, and it’s your influence that inspires the content in every single issue of this magazine.

Then we imagined the massive infighting that would occur if we tried to whittle ourselves down to a list of just 20 influential operators and thought better of it. There’s already enough arguing for us to do about which pizza toppings are best (...

Ideas and Innovation
bolognese sauce

We’re trying to bring scratch cooking to all the elementary schools, but we’re taking it dish by dish. Right now, we satellite a lot of the dishes out. This month we made a Bolognese from scratch, and went to each of the schools to talk to them about the process and see if they could implement it. It helps us find out the hurdles and what they are going to need to make it work.

Ideas and Innovation
unsung heroes graphic

Febin Bellamy, a senior at Georgetown University, is the founder of Unsung Heroes, a nonprofit that features service workers on college campuses in man-on-the-street-style Facebook interviews. This year, Bellamy is working with a dozen schools to launch their own chapters of the storytelling platform. Here’s what he’s learned about staff shoutouts.

Q: Why did you decide to start Unsung Heroes?

A: One day I started a conversation with a custodial worker in the business school that I would see all the time. I learned that we had a lot of similarities; for instance, we both wanted to...

Ideas and Innovation
chicken and waffles

Our elementary menu is currently riding the breakfast-anytime advertising trend by offering Breakfast for Lunch every Tuesday. It ranks as our highest participation, and it was a great way for us to introduce chicken and waffles inspired by an IHOP dish.

FSD Resources