Indian flavors show local appeal

With wide flexibility in spice and vegetarian options, the draw of this Asian cuisine is growing.

indian food

Trend-watchers have been saying for years that Indian food is the next emerging cuisine to hit chain restaurants, but noncommercial dining is way ahead of the curve. These sometimes-spicy, often vegetarian-based dishes are making inroads, foodservice directors find, due to more diverse populations and adventurous eaters in their operations.

Comfort food with wide appeal

“The influence of a corporate town shows an influx of cultures and immigration patterns,” says Jim Mazzaraco, executive chef at Corning, Inc. The materials science company is based in Corning, N.Y. but has a global presence and a significant number of Indian employees among its U.S. workforce.

“We strive to give them comfort food they know and love, even working with our people to get regional recipes from their parts of India,” says Mazzaraco.

But, just as forecasters have been predicting, once Americans get a taste for authentic Indian food, they want more. “As soon as we added Indian food, we got remarkable feedback,” Mazzaraco says. “The food showed expandability beyond the Indian community immediately. It’s grown beyond our stir-fry and quick-order stations to become part of all our menus.”

Mazzaraco has found that vegetarians and vegans especially are receptive to the entrees, which often are meat- and dairy-free. Indian entrees are among some of the most popular on Corning’s menus, he says, with curry dishes, red-bean rajma (also known as Indian chili) and naan bread standing out as employee favorites.

Customization rules in school

It makes sense that Indian cuisine is making more headway among student diners than in the general population. According to Chicago research firm Technomic, spicy flavors are here to stay, driven especially by younger consumers who prefer them.

About a year ago, Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y., worked with an Indian restaurant situated a mile away to add a fast-casual version of its concept on campus as part of students’ meal plan options. This idea came about by popular demand from students, who have lined up for the food ever since, says Tom LaSarso, director of retail operations of Binghamton dining services (Sodexo).

“Rice bowls are the most popular option,” among the student population that comes from all over the world, he says. “But the whole menu can be mixed and matched.” Designed to create a customized layer-your-own-meal experience, the menu allows diners to pick from a variety of bases, proteins, toppings and sauces.

“Students eat there five times a week and don’t get bored,” LaSarso says. “Some of the heat levels on those sauces are pretty hot, and many students like to see how spiced up they can make a meal.”

Regional Matters

While fusion styles may be a hit on some campuses, Mazzaraco points out  that his customers are looking for authentic dishes with regional variations. “Defining Indian as one thing is like saying that Latin food is one thing, when Puerto Rican and Brazilian cuisines are vastly different [from each other],” says Mazzaraco.  However, he notes some commonalities among the regions. “Indian  food [in general] is healthy, fresh and nutritious, and that’s what people are responding to.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
polystyrene takeout

New York City will immediately start phasing out foodservice operations’ use of polystyrene takeout containers after a judge ruled on Friday against an operator coalition that had sued to overturn such a regulation, Mayor Bill de Blasio said over the weekend.

Unless the measure is blocked again on appeal, the city will commence a public education campaign to smooth the way for the change to other sorts of containers. Operators will be given a six-month grace period to find alternatives before they’ll be subject to sanctions.

The measure was scheduled to take effect last...

Managing Your Business
uber driver

The freelance, independent-contractor labor market known as the gig economy is distinguished by working short-term contracts, or gigs, such as driving for Uber, Lyft or Instacart.

The majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by 2027, according to a study called “Freelancing in America: 2017,” conducted by Edelman Intelligence. The annual study, commissioned in partnership by the Freelancers Union and Upwork Global, estimates that 36% of the U.S. workforce consists of freelancers who contribute approximately $1.4 trillion annually—an increase of almost 30% over the...

Industry News & Opinion

Sturgeon Bay Schools in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., has partnered with a local farm to construct a school greenhouse , Green Bay Press Gazette reports.

Construction will begin soon, and the district says that the project is already 75% funded. Once the building is finished, students will be able to grow their own food at the greenhouse and then learn how to preserve it through canning and other methods.

“The greenhouse will provide students with the opportunity to grow food, sample food they have cultivated, design planting plans, tend seedlings, integrate real-life technology in...

Sponsored Content
eating mac and cheese

From AFP advanced food products llc

Some iconic food pairings have stood the test of time―peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese, just to name a few.

But, classic doesn’t mean boring or on the way out. In fact, there’s been a resurgence of mac and cheese on menus. According to 2018 data from Technomic’s MenuMonitor, mac and cheese menu mentions have grown by the following percentages over the past four years:

On the kids menu: 10.4% As an entree: 7.5% As a side/extra: 8.2%

In addition to increasing menu instances, noncommercial...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code