3 restaurant concepts serving up approachable global fare

ethnic foods

Foodservice operators are obliging to consumers' demands for adventure on the menu, offering global flavors from Asian to Indian and beyond. And while Americanized versions of ethnic favorites allow a lot of concepts to add international flavors, today’s diners are often looking for authenticity. In fact, 32% say they’d be willing to pay extra for dishes steeped in tradition, according to Technomic’s Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report. To provide that, U.S. concepts with an international menu are making the most of on-trend customization, allowing diners to choose just how adventurous they’d like to be. Here’s how operators are making three global cuisines approachable for the American diner. 

Photograph courtesy of Tocabe

Tocabe

ethnic foods

Denver
2 units, 1 food truck

There’s opportunity for operators in the realm of Native American cuisine, judging by consumer interest in it. Some 51% of consumers say they haven’t tried indigenous American food but are intrigued by it, according to Technomic’s Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report. And nearly a quarter (24%) of consumers surveyed said they’ve tried Native American cuisine and they like it. Tocabe, which operates two limited-service brick-and-mortar units in Denver as well as a food truck, is owned and operated by members of the Osage Nation. Using customization as an entry point for unfamiliar consumers, the menu features Indian tacos, salads, stuffed fry bread and nachos available with a choice of proteins, grains and toppings such as Osage hominy, roasted green chiles and sweet corn with radish. But the authenticity goes beyond the menu: The restaurant works to source ingredients, such as wild rice and maple syrup, from Native American producers.

Photograph courtesy of Tocabe

The Boiling Bowl

ethnic foods

Portland, Ore.
1 unit

Customizable Southeast Asian cuisine, in the form of DIY pho and build-your-own salad rolls, is the focus of full service The Boiling Bowl. The 100-seat Vietnamese spot, which opened at the end of September, comes from Andrew Vu, who runs two other pho-focused restaurants in the area. The restaurant makes Southeast Asian cuisine approachable and experiential with hands-on offerings. Salad rolls are served as “self-roll” platters, stocked with southeast Asian vegetables and herbs, as well as a variety of proteins, vermicelli noodles and rice paper wrappers. The traditional pho also comes with customizable options, including protein choices such as fatty brisket and tendon, as well as meatballs and eye of round steak that are, perhaps, more well-known to U.S. diners. The concept is about more than just introducing diners to Vietnamese cuisine, though. “Our team is dedicated to bringing you an authentic taste of our culture,” its website says. 

Photograph courtesy of The Boiling Bowl

The Kati Roll Company

kati roll company logo

New York City
6 units

Fast-casual Indian cuisine—particularly grab-and-go-style street food—is drawing consumers who are seeking authentic offerings that are also customizable and unexpected. Some 34% of consumers, for example, say they’ve tried Indian food and that they consider it “unique and exciting,” according to Technomic consumer data. The growing Kati Roll Company concept features a variety of spiced proteins wrapped inside Indian paratha bread. The restaurant first opened in 2002 with a 300-square-foot unit and has continued to expand since. Its sixth unit—which features a mural of a Bollywood star—opened in late August. As it has grown, the chain has continued to add spice-packed new menu items, including the Kosha Mangsho Roll filled with braised mutton, ground Bengali spices, bird-eye chiles and red onions. Consumers are also expressing increasing interest in ethnic beverages, with 43% of younger consumers saying they order such drinks at least weekly, according to Technomic. The Kati Roll Company serves several lassis, made with yogurt and date-palm sugar and flavorings such as orange blossom, honeydew and a savory version with cumin, mint, black salt and ginger. 

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
student choice

Turkey and cucumber are two ingredients foodservice director Vince Scimone would never have thought to put together. Student judges at Grossmont Union High School District in La Mesa, Calif., however, believe they are a winning combination.

The students selected the combo, which was paired with a spicy Thousand Island dressing and sandwiched between a jalapeno bagel, as the winner of the district’s first Shark Tank competition. The now-annual event pits schools across the district against one another to come up with creative menu items. The new items are judged by students....

Industry News & Opinion

In an effort to address the danger of student allergies , the University of Maryland is looking to make EpiPens available in its dining halls by the time spring break rolls around, The Diamondback reports .

Each dining hall would have multiple two-pack EpiPens on hand, which would cost about $1,000 per eatery, Dining Services Director Colleen Wright-Riva told The Diamondback. The EpiPen initiative would be instituted in partnership with the College Park, Md., school’s University Health Center.

Out of the university’s 9,000 students who are currently enrolled in a meal plan...

Managing Your Business
help wanted

Put down your peashooter for a moment to consider how weaponry has evolved in the battle for foodservice talent.

Restaurants, the perennial rival for key employees such as cooks, cashiers and line servers, have been griping for more than three decades about “Help Wanted” signs becoming permanent fixtures of their front windows. The only break came in the Great Recession, when their hiring pleas were replaced with “Going Out of Business” alerts. But even then, noncommercial foodservice had a tough time convincing potential hires to work inside the operations of hospitals, employee...

Ideas and Innovation
Romaine Lettuce Concerns

Following last week’s warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that urged foodservice operators to halt serving all romaine lettuce , FSDs across the country have found a variety of ways to replace the crunchy green that’s a customer favorite in salads and sandwiches.

Though the original warning was earlier this week limited to romaine grown in certain areas of California , operations continue to do without romaine as they await new supply. In the meantime, prices of alternative iceberg lettuce have been on the rise .

FSD reached out to members of its...

FSD Resources