Familiar flavors shine in holiday side dishes

From Basic American Foods.

Given the media attention lavished on trendy new ingredients and emerging ethnic cuisines, one might assume that customers are always seeking new thrills when they dine out.

The reality is quite different. Research shows that consumers are actually creatures of habit who go back to the same restaurants and order the same items because it is safe and comforting. The truth is, on most dining occasions, most consumers are simply not willing to take risks with unfamiliar foods. Rather, they seek relaxation, fulfillment and above all, comfort. In fact, an IFMA survey found that 78% of consumers want to feel content or satisfied after a dining experience.1 Providing that is especially important at this time of the year, when consumers put aside the salads and small plates of summer and crave the heartier, more comforting fare of the cooler months and the holiday season.

Although it is important for restaurant operators to stay on top of flavor and cuisine trends, they should keep in mind that more often than not, consumers want classic American dishes rather than trendy offerings, interesting ingredients or ethnic items. In fact, traditional American food leads the list of top 10 cuisine types mentioned on menus, far ahead of Italian, Chinese, Mexican or any other ethnic cuisine or style of food, according to a Mintel report.2

Thus the odds of creating successful holiday side dishes, and menus in general, are much higher when operators focus on familiar, traditional American recipes and favorite comfort foods. A menu item featuring comforting or indulgent main ingredients such as potatoes, cheese or butter is likely to be popular and successful, according to the Mintel report. In fact, potatoes are the only item that more than half (53%) of respondents consider as comfort food, followed by cheese at 49%. Recipes that combine potatoes and cheese are logical choices for creating appealing new side dishes.

Thanks to the versatility of Basic American Foods Potato Pearls®, it’s easy to add more mashed potatoes to your menu with creative signature side dishes. Take a distinctive holiday side like Sage and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes, made with quick, easy-prep Potato Pearls® Excel® Mashed Potatoes, fresh sage and brown butter. Or French Onion Mashed Gratin — Potato Pearls® Mashed Potatoes combined with cream cheese and garlic, finished with caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese and baked until golden brown — is equally impressive on a holiday menu.

Also perfect for the season are Potato Pearls® Excel® Sweet Potatoes, a blend of potatoes and sweet potatoes with an on-trend flavor and the characteristic quick, easy prep of Basic American Foods products. A dish like Creamy Sweet Potatoes, made with Potato Pearls® Sweet Potatoes plus cream cheese and butter, delivers comfort and indulgence in every bite. Or try Apple Gruyere Sweet Potatoes, a medley of Potato Pearls® Sweet Potatoes and caramelized, diced apples, topped with Gruyere cheese and baked until golden brown.

Basic American Foods Potato Pearls® offer the consistent flavor, texture and appearance of scratch-made potatoes minus the labor of peeling, boiling and mashing. The quick, easy prep, along with storage and handling efficiency, save time and money. Compared to preparing raw potatoes, they have a much lower cost per serving, 100-percent yield and are ready to serve in a fraction of the time. Moreover, their scratch-made taste will satisfy even the most discriminating customers. In addition to making stellar sides, they also lend themselves to comforting soups, appetizers, small bites and main courses.

1 Source: IFMA Decision & Solutions consumer survey, Datassentials, January 2013
2 Source: Innovation on the Menu Flavor Trends, Mintel report, August 2012

More From FoodService Director

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.

Ideas and Innovation
dress code geeks

Team uniforms are a way we encourage fun. I tell the mangers that every person on your team needs to look like a member of your team, but they can decide together what they want to wear. When the students see a cafeteria person that is matching and having fun with their outfits, they relate to those people better. We don’t want them to look stiff and stuffy.

Menu Development
meatloaf slices plate

“This is the best meatloaf I’ve ever had,” a diner at Alcatel-Lucent telecommunications in Naperville, Ill., once told chef Iraj Fernando. The dish was rooted in a tried-and-true source—the “Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“I just seasoned the breadcrumbs differently, used fresh parsley and beat the eggs to make them frothier,” says Fernando, executive chef and manager for Southern Foodservice Management.

Consumer interest is up for classic and comforting meat dishes like meatballs (16%), beef pot pie (26%) and meatloaf (12%) for dinner now compared to two years ago, shows...

Ideas and Innovation
oxford school district cafeteria

We have spent considerable money making cafeterias cool again. New paint jobs, crazy color patterns, custom graphics and changes in lighting schemes have made some of our cafes popular gathering places. We’ve also experimented with videos, cable TV programs and music. We involved a number of student groups and student input in improving the atmosphere, especially in our high school and middle school cafeterias.

FSD Resources