How to prioritize flavor on limited menus

Photograph courtesy of Tabasco

With recent restaurant dining room shutdowns leading to skeleton crew staffs and diners turning to takeout and delivery, many operators opted to reduce menu sizes to include only high-margin customer favorites.

But as operators scale back menu items and SKUs of ingredients on hand to minimize waste and costs, they must ensure what remains appeals to consumers. Offering a variety of big, bold flavors is essential. Follow these three tips to maximize flavor even when menus are limited.

1)    Offer signature sauces

Creating one-of-a-kind sauces can boost the appeal of menu items. According to Technomic’s Q4 2019 Sauces Menu Trends Report, 39% of consumers are tempted to order an item with an “original” sauce or ingredient. In fact, Technomic’s 2019 Flavor Consumer Trend Report confirms that 36% of consumers are more likely to order a dish if it comes with a unique sauce; 39% say they’re tempted to order an item when it has an original sauce or ingredient they can only get at a particular foodservice establishment.

In other words, offering unique sauces attracts customers.

Operators can use bulk sauces and SKUs they already have in stock to create new signature offerings. For example, blending TABASCO® Brand Sweet & Spicy Pepper Sauce with honey mustard creates a delicious Sweet & Spicy Mustard sauce that’s perfect on potstickers or as a marinade. Want to “plus up” your dishes? Adding TABASCO® Brand Habanero Sauce to plain yogurt elevates desserts and parfaits; blending TABASCO® Brand Cayenne Garlic Pepper Sauce with marinara sauce does the same for Italian cuisine.

2)    Consider incremental ingredient use

Operators can also re-evaluate current dishes to determine whether their condiments or sauces would work equally well on other menu items. Such a move can help operators stretch their food costs and boost menu appeal.

For example, if Chipotle BBQ Sauce is used on ribs, it could also be added to dishes such as loaded fries topped with pulled pork or even a signature burger. Need some inspiration? Some of the fastest growing dishes with sauces include chilaquiles, poke bowls and soup.

3)    Elevate grab-and-go options and off-premises eats

Finally, operators can bolster their flavor-first reputation with consumers by including signature sauces in takeout and delivery orders. In fact, 41% of consumers say they consider which sauces and condiments will be available when deciding which foodservice location to visit.

Offering individually portioned sauces also allows diners to try a new sauce without committing to it for their whole meal. Technomic found that 66% of consumers like trying new flavors from time to time, and 28% say that when they seek out new flavors, it’s because they want to go spicier. Offering signature sauces in takeout and delivery orders lets them try spicier—or trending—flavors without changing the flavor of their entire meal.

Working with a limited menu doesn’t have to mean offering less-appealing foods. To learn how the TABASCO® Family of Flavors® can help keep consumers coming back for more, visit

This post is sponsored by TABASCO® Brand

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