Think outside the bowl: 3 ways to keep customers coming back

Squeeze more creativity into fruit salads.

rex farro orange salad

A bowl of fruit is a simple way to eat light and healthfully. But there are times when customers want more.  Here are three ways operators can create fruit salads that keep customers coming back.

1. Keep it seasonal and local

When fruit is your star ingredient, it has to taste spectacular, says Michael Atanasio, food and nutrition manager at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J. Capitalizing on seasonal, local fruits also is important. “We try to stick as local as we can,” he says. “So a lot of the berries [we buy] we don’t get out of season.”

Still, always sourcing seasonal fruit can be difficult. When forced to use produce that’s not exactly at its prime, Atanasio says his chefs will enhance fruit’s natural sweetness by tossing it in sauces made with natural fruit juice and balsamic vinegar or in simple syrups infused with cardamom, lavender or cinnamon. Pairing out-of-season fruits with more flavorful in-season items can work wonders, too.  

2. Embrace flavorful add-ons

After a resident at Friendship Villas at La Cholla, an assisted living community in Tucson, Ariz., shared her recipe for a basic grape-and-apple salad with yogurt dressing, Culinary Services Director Patti McNeill and her team got creative. “We added some Southwest flair to it,” McNeill says.

To serve the salad as a main dish, they added farro for bulk and diced jicama for crunch. To give the dressing more local flavor, McNeill added agave nectar, lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro.

3. Borrow from restaurants

Christian Scott, sous chef for Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., says he likes to surprise customers by developing dishes that mimic what’s popular in restaurants. Right now, that’s a combination of savory and sweet.

“Kale salads are our most requested salad,” she says. “And fruit helps to offset the bitterness.” Lately, she’s been tossing kale with fresh mango, fresh pineapple, crispy banana chips and Thai-inspired coconut-syrup dressing.

When flavorful fruit is harder to come by, Scott turns to lesser-used types of citrus such as blood oranges or tangelos in an Italian farro salad that also includes fresh spinach, balsamic roasted beets and local chévre. To dress up the salad, Scott also supremes the oranges by removing the fruit’s pit and membranes.

But sometimes there’s no substitute for a simple bowl of fruit. Says Scott, “Every day we still feature sliced up honeydew, grapes and berries.”  

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