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Easy menu innovation starts with fruit

fruit
Photograph: Shutterstock

Now more than ever, operators need ingredients that work as hard as they do. With many dining rooms and cafeterias still closed, the emphasis on carryout and delivery will continue well into the new year. In fact, Datassential research from November 2020 revealed that 55% of on-site operators currently offer takeout. Convenient, high-yield ingredients such as frozen or shelf-stable packaged pre-cut fruit are an important tool in a noncommercial operator’s repertoire, enabling culinary innovation while minimizing time, labor and food waste. Fruit-focused recipes that travel well and showcase global flavors can help to differentiate an operator’s menu offerings. 

The key is to consider how to tie internationally inspired recipes into the types of dishes that customers crave. Comfort foods, for example, are still in high demand. And items like sandwiches, which are naturally portable, make a great jumping-off point for creativity. Create a pineapple chicken wrap, filled with crispy tenders or grilled chicken strips and an island-inspired slaw made from pineapple tidbits, avocado, red onion and bell peppers. With a finishing drizzle of mango-lime ranch dressing, an operator can completely reinvent a standard menu item with Caribbean flair. Or, put an Indonesian spin on a beloved carryout staple by adding fruit. A fried rice bowl, filled with soy-caramelized rice, chili, garlic, shallots and diced mango is sure to please.

Washed, cut, ready-to-use fruit can be used in multiple ways across the menu—or even within a single recipe. For example, finely chopped pineapple and mango can be folded into seasoned ground pork to create flavorful slider patties. Those same fruits can be tossed with jicama and cilantro to make a sweet and refreshing slaw, or blended with mayonnaise, garlic and ginger for a zesty sandwich spread. Ingredient versatility is key, with 38% of operators saying they need more convenience-focused products to help simplify prep, according to a Datassential survey from June 2020.

Shelf-stable fruit juice is another ingredient that offers unlimited menu possibilities. Consider pineapple juice, which can be used within protein marinades, salad dressings, beverages or sauces. An herbal iced tea inspired by Nigerian Zobo is delicious, aromatic and visually appealing, featuring hibiscus, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and pineapple juice. It can be prepared in large batches ahead of time and refrigerated, offered as a to-go beverage. 

While the experiential and social aspects of the dining landscape have changed, operators are still finding ways to express their culinary creativity—while maintaining a focus on food safety, cost effectiveness and time management. Globally inspired recipes that feature beloved fruits in convenient formats can help to bring a taste of excitement to any noncommercial menu. 

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This post is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods

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