Taking condiment bars to the next level

condiment bar foodservice

From TABASCO® Foodservice.

Even the best ideas need an update from time to time—and there’s no question that condiment bars are a good idea. Stations where students can add flavor and customize their meals to personal preference represent a very effective way for operators to keep engagement levels high, offer build-your-own dining experiences and introduce new flavors and ingredients.

According to a recent report from Technomic, build-your-own options can help meet growing consumer demand for customization, fueled by fast-casual concepts featuring everything from salad bars to build-a-bowl platforms. Moreover, the researcher’s menu and consumer data validate the popularity of dips, dressings, condiments, sauces, spices and other flavor boosters that can be added by diners, as well as such toppings as nuts and seeds, dried fruits, shredded cheese, eggs and so on. These extras help students accommodate both cravings and dietary needs, to say nothing of the fun factor that comes with self-service bars.

Condiment bars come in all formats, too, from an all-purpose bar that can serve many menu platforms to such specialized concepts as salsa bars, oatmeal-topping stations, baked-potato bars and condiments for sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers.

For operators, summer is an ideal time to upgrade and freshen a condiment bar, as planning for the fall semester gets underway. Not only are many fruits and vegetables at their seasonal best, but warmer weather always spurs dietary changes and a sense of the new and fresh.

  • Beyond the usual ketchup and mustard, here are some ideas for adding appeal to condiment bars:
  • Alt-croutons like pita chips and seasoned tortilla strips
  • Relishes and chutneys
  • Seasoned or glazed nuts
  • Chimichurri or salsa verde
  • Infused olive oil or flavored oil such as sesame
  • Specialty hot sauces
  • Spice mixes such as Cajun seasoning, dukkah or za’atar
  • Global condiments (sambal, black bean sauce, Sriracha, gochujang, chipotle chiles en adobo)

Operators can also provide small dishes or paper condiment cups so students can take toppings and sauces to the tables to share communally as a dip. Flavored oils can be decanted into labeled, dropper-top bottles for ease of use.

Condiments like gochujang can be presented in their original bottles to send a message of authenticity, and cards or tents introducing more unusual ingredients such as dukkah (a trending Egyptian mix of herbs, nuts and spices) can contain information about ingredients and place of origin.

By offering these types of creative add-ons in a build-your-own format, operators can generate excitement and keep students craving.

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