Craveable combos offer menu flexibility and excitement

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Sometimes, the hardest decision of a diner’s day is whether to have soup, a sandwich or a salad for lunch. Thankfully, many fast-casual chains have made it so consumers don’t have to choose. With mix-and-match menus, diners can opt to enjoy more than one dish in the same meal. Drawing inspiration from those fast-casual chains, foodservice operators at senior living facilities have also begun offering mix-and-match meal choices.

According to Technomic’s 2018 Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report, 45% of consumers say they would be likely to order a combo meal featuring soup and a sandwich; 38% say they would be likely to order a combo that includes soup, a salad and a sandwich; and 35% say they would be likely to order a combo of soup and a salad. What’s more, 40% of consumers say it’s important that they can substitute soup for sides that come with entrees.

In senior living facilities, offering several options of entrees as part of a “pick two” or “pick three” choice is made easier with frozen soups. As for how to decide what combinations to offer, taking a look at trends and consumer preferences can be a big help.

What kinds of soups are diners interested in?

According to the Technomic report, 47% of consumers are interested in trying soups with new or unique flavors; 34% are interested in trying more ethnic soups, 30% prefer to order soups with spicy flavors and 28% are interested in trying more soups made with bone broth.

Operators can offer soups with ethnic or spicy flavors to appeal to diners looking for something interesting. For instance, menu Campbell’s® Reserve Wicked Thai Style Chicken and Rice Soup or make a Vietnamese pho station where diners can add their preferred toppings—use Campbell’s Soup Customizers in Vegetarian Vietnamese Pho as the base.

Operators should also be sure to offer the classics that consumers are familiar with and love. Beef stew, chicken noodle, beef chili, potato and broccoli soup are the soups consumers prefer most, according to Technomic.

Sandwich trends

According to Technomic’s 2018 Sandwich Consumer Trend Report, the fastest-growing sandwich ingredients include premium proteins such as capicola, cod and prime rib; tasty breads such as brioche and marble rye; unique toppings including jalapeno peppers, sauteed onions and pineapple; and savory sauces and condiments such as hot sauce, aioli and marinara.

Tap into diners’ desire for flavorful sandwiches by incorporating these trends into the sandwich menu. By offering unique sandwiches alongside soups (both unique and familiar) and salads, diners will have ample opportunity to build a meal they’ll love.

Increasing the appeal of salads

Technomic’s 2018 Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report finds that half of consumers are more likely to order salad if they can read a description of the salad on the menu. Operators should be sure to list all ingredients and toppings as well as flavor descriptions for the variety of dressings offered so that customers may be enticed by those descriptions.

Seasonal toppings can also add to a salad’s appeal. For instance, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds can be a great option to offer as a salad topping during the fall, because they incorporate the flavors of the season.

Craveable combos

By menuing mix-and-match options for meals, such as soups, salads and sandwiches or wraps, residents can build a meal that’s customized to their preferences and dietary requirements. These popular meal choices are a hit at commercial restaurants—so there’s no reason noncommercial foodservice can’t win with them, too.

This post is sponsored by Campbell's Foodservice