9 global takes on handhelds

vietnamese banh mi

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

When it comes to offering exciting global flavors and ingredients, put it in the customer’s hands—with handhelds, that is. Burgers, sandwiches, wraps and shareables such as wings and tacos are fun, familiar and a value-packed way to leverage consumer fascination with ethnic menu items, including Asian, Latin, Mediterranean, and regional American specialties.

It’s also easy to add a global spin when you start with a popular menu staple like a sandwich. Not only is the sandwich a true citizen of the world—from a Portuguese bifana to a New Orleans muffuletta to a Vietnamese banh mi—but there are also lots of ways to adapt traditional sandwiches to global trends with the addition of new flavors, ethnic ingredients or distinctive prep techniques.

According to Technomic’s 2016 Sandwich Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, ethnic sandwiches can help operators appeal to younger consumers, who are especially open to trying new and ethnic foods in general. Some of the fastest-growing sandwich flavors on Top 500 menus since 2014 include Sriracha (+80%), chili (58.7%), and mango (33.3%), all of which are ethnic-inspired, the Technomic report found.

Fast-growing ethnic-inspired burger flavors, meanwhile, include ancho (+25%), citrus (20.0%), miso (18.2%), honey BBQ (15.4%), ginger (10.7%), and curry (9.2%), according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor.

Here are nine quick ideas for adding global flair to sandwiches and other handhelds.

  1. Put a Latin spin on sandwiches, fries or burgers with a cheese such as cotija, pepper jack or queso.
  2. Some cheeses, in fact, are practically shorthand for specific global cuisines: feta (Greek); Camembert (French); manchego (Spanish); Gorgonzola or provolone (Italian); pimento (Southern). Build a sandwich, burger or wrap around one of these cheeses, or use on a cheese board or other shareable.
  3. Condiments represent an excellent way to add global allure to all kinds of foods: Tapenade, aioli, tzatziki, miso, Sriracha, Asian fish sauce, fig jam, harissa, salsa or chutney all easily add a punch of flavor to familiar menu items.
  4. Simpler still, add a seasoning blend such as Caribbean citrus, chipotle, jalapeno, Italian or garlic-and-herb to mayo, sour cream, vinaigrette or cream cheese to create a flavor-forward marinade, spread, dip or dressing.
  5. Many global sandwiches depend on specialty breads such as baguette (banh mi), telera roll (Mexican torta), biscuit (Southern favorites), naan (Indian flatbread) or tortilla (taco), so use that as a starting point for a worldly riff on the ever-popular burger.
  6. Chicken wings and tenders are an excellent vehicle for global flavors, from Cajun blackening spices to sticky Chinese-style barbecue sauce to pungent Korean-style gochujang glaze. Operators can also easily dial up the heat from spices including chipotle or jalapeno, or they can offer “sweet heat” combinations to give global flavors an innovative twist.
  7. Pressing a ham and cheese sandwich with mustard and pickles on a panini grill creates an instant Cuban sandwich; other popular pressed sandwiches include Caprese (Italian-style tomato, basil and mozzarella), certain types of burritos or pan bagnat (Provençale-style tuna salad).
  8. Global street foods are gaining in popularity, and many of them answer the call for handhelds, including satays and skewers, tacos, quesadillas, empanadas and arepas, rice balls, gyoza and other dumplings, kebabs, knishes, falafel, pakora, grilled corn on the cob, focaccia and gyros.
  9. When in doubt about an item’s popularity potential, menu it first as an LTO (limited-time offer) to allow for special promotional efforts and to test the waters.

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