Breakfast goes global

Menu items from four regions help boost morning meals’ sales.

Published in FSD Update

You know what they say: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But American breakfasts, while tasty, are often high in carbohydrates and fat. To appeal to those health-conscious customers, consider creating breakfasts with a worldly influence.

Take Anthony Kveragas, the chef/manager at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., who offers breakfast dishes from Greece, Asia and Latin America. 

“Adding ethnic variety to our regular breakfast lineup takes minimal effort, lowers our costs, raises customer satisfaction and it’s healthier—win, win, win, win,” says Kveragas, who researches recipes, travels and talks with foreign students to better understand other countries’ cuisines. “Students are interested in exploring by nature, and I enjoy providing them the opportunity of eating more diversely and healthier.” 

To get some worldly inspiration of your own, take a look at these four regions for ideas.

1. European:
At the Passport Café in the Carole Weinstein International Center at the University of Richmond, in Virginia, Chef/Manager Karen Kourkoulis offers a variety of ethnic breakfast sandwiches, like a Spanish chorizo, egg and Muenster cheese sandwich and a French spinach, mushroom, egg and Brie sandwich. 

The sandwiches come on telera rolls, a softer rounded bread—“customers like the texture and flavor of the roll, as it allows the flavor of the sandwich ingredients to come through.” For the egg portion, Kourkoulis starts by making omelets, which get halved and added to each sandwich. They can even be used for the next day’s sandwich building. 

“The sandwiches are fresh and filling, and the addition of an ingredient like chorizo makes them stand out from the usual breakfast items like bacon and sausage,” Kourkoulis says. “The best way to entice diners to try something new is to simply talk to them, explain a certain ingredient or give a little history of where a certain dish originated.” Samples go a long way, too, she notes.

Another great European option is a Greek-style yogurt bar, like the one Cornell’s Kveragas has installed. The chef strains plain yogurt overnight (tip: you can use the whey for smoothies to minimize waste) and allows students to choose their own toppings, like maple syrup, berries, chocolate and salted caramel, at a self-serve station. “It’s our most popular breakfast option, probably because it has wide appeal to a large audience.” Kveragas also does some more adventurous European offerings, like French crêpes and tartines and an Alsatian-style pizza (made by subbing out tomato sauce for crème fraîche and using a lavash bread for the crust) topped with onions and bacon.

2. Caribbean:
After realizing what a large Caribbean population New York City had, Pnina Peled, executive chef at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, decided to offer two breakfast items to cater to this demographic: a Caribbean porridge and salt cod with hard boiled eggs. “Porridge is considered a comfort food, which always does well in the healthcare environment,” Peled explains. After researching the dishes and relying on her diverse staff, she tweaked the recipes and found perfection. “All the customers love it—our biggest problem is making enough. It just flies out of here,” she says.

The cafeteria goes through nearly 10 gallons of porridge each day, which is made fresh every morning around 6 and lasts through 10:30 a.m. Peled recommends using cornmeal, condensed milk and coconut milk, with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg, similar to how it is made in Jamaica. “Some people mix in oatmeal, but we don’t because it’s not authentic,” she adds.

The salt cod is equally popular. “We buy salt cod—it’s pretty expensive, but [the dish] is priced accordingly—and soak it overnight in water to remove the salt,” explains Peled, who then sautés the fish with onions and peppers until it shreds. “Our Caribbean population really appreciates having these items, so my advice is always to know your customers—that’s the only way to offer foods that are going to be popular.” 

3. Asian:
Many operators have also found success with Asian options. Kveragas offers Zhou, a rice-based Chinese porridge with ginger, a protein (shrimp, chicken, tofu or pork) and pickled vegetables, and a Japanese miso soup breakfast bar with add-ons like shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, tofu, noodles and pickled ginger.

Similarly, Richmond’s Kourkoulis offers Japanese items like shrimp shumai, dumplings, seaweed salad and sushi rolls starting at 9 a.m., due to customer demand. When it comes to finding some of the more ethnic ingredients, Kourkoulis recommends making special trips to specific markets. 

4. Latin American:
Latin American options are a natural, easy choice at breakfast as well. Like the rest of his self-serve ethnic stations, Kveragas offers a Mexican bar where students can make their own breakfast wraps, choosing from items like diced avocado, fresh tomato salsa, black beans, rice, sour cream and a Costa Rican Lizano sauce. “The students heat their own flour shells, as we have a hot plate for them to use,” Kveragas says. “It’s always a big hit and a labor savings.” 

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
induction cooking nuts

Thanks to prolific fast casuals such as Chipotle, guests have come to expect a certain level of customization in their dining options. For almost 50% of Generation Zers, customization is a deciding factor when purchasing food, according Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report . Taking customization even further, operations are handing over even more control to customers with both build-your-own and cook-your-own stations.

Elder Hall’s My Kitchen station at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., offers a daily rotating ingredient bar with items such as stir-fry,...

Menu Development
health food medicine stethoscope

For the last two years, Chris Studtmann has jockeyed between Northwestern University’s residential dining halls and athletic training tables in his role of executive chef, trying to meet the health and food preferences of both sides. Now, his team is taking best practices developed for the sports teams to the 20,000-plus student population, working with dietitians from the school’s contract company to better sync healthy menu choices with lifestyle needs.

Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows younger consumers are especially tuned in to functional foods that...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

FSD Resources