Boost profits with consumers’ comfort-food faves

chicken wings
Photograph: Shutterstock

From Pierce Chicken.

Consumer demand for comfort foods is at an all-time high. Classic choices such as mashed potatoes, ice cream, French fries, meat loaf and macaroni and cheese continue to attract fans—even in senior living residences, cutting-edge college dining halls and office cafeterias where there are dozens of other on-trend menu choices.

One comforting ingredient that’s in high demand is chicken, but what is it about chicken that makes it such a feel-good food? Well, consumers grew up on Mom’s chicken soup and chicken pot pie, so it could be that it reminds them of home-cooked meals and brings back childhood memories. Maybe that’s why consumers flock to chicken: According to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry report, 91% of consumers say they eat chicken at least once a week.

Creative cooking with chicken

Since comfort foods are familiar to so many consumers, it’s easy to innovate around a basic recipe without scaring them off. These kinds of foods are familiar enough to consumers that chefs can flex some creative muscle by offering craveable and signature dishes that makes an operation stand out from its competition.

Take, for example, chicken wings. According to Technomic’s Poultry report, 48% of consumers say that boneless wings are their preferred chicken appetizer or snack, and 43% say that deep-fried/breaded chicken is their preferred preparation style of chicken. Try a twist on chicken wings by offering boneless wing poutine—the ultimate comfort food appetizer, made with crispy French fries loaded with breaded and deep-fried Pierce Chicken® Boneless Wing Dings, creamy cheese curds and savory gravy.

Culture also plays a big role in defining comfort foods. Operators have an opportunity to offer ethnic comfort foods to satisfy a diverse dining population by adding new flavors to traditional recipes. According to Technomic’s Poultry report, 78% of consumers says that flavor imparted by preparation style is appealing, and 74% say flavor imparted by seasonings and spices is appealing.

Think of fritters—every culture has its own unique presentation, such as Italy’s ham and smoked mozzarella fritter or Jamaica’s banana fritter with cinnamon-sugar and rum. Consider putting a Chicken Fritter Potato Stack entree on the menu. This recipe takes the globally recognized fritter and makes it modern and contemporary with shredded potato hash browns layered with Pierce Chicken® Country Style Chicken Tenderloin Fritters, a sunny side up egg and spicy hollandaise sauce.

Comfort foods are the classic American cuisine. The flavors of today’s cuisine are not founded on classically trained chef recipes, but instead have been nurtured in home kitchens. It’s a win-win for operators to offer feel-good foods because they meet consumer demands with humble, rustic and cozy menu choices while increasing their bottom line.

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