Taking condiment bars to the next level

condiment bar foodservice

From TABASCO® Foodservice.

Even the best ideas need an update from time to time—and there’s no question that condiment bars are a good idea. Stations where students can add flavor and customize their meals to personal preference represent a very effective way for operators to keep engagement levels high, offer build-your-own dining experiences and introduce new flavors and ingredients.

According to a recent report from Technomic, build-your-own options can help meet growing consumer demand for customization, fueled by fast-casual concepts featuring everything from salad bars to build-a-bowl platforms. Moreover, the researcher’s menu and consumer data validate the popularity of dips, dressings, condiments, sauces, spices and other flavor boosters that can be added by diners, as well as such toppings as nuts and seeds, dried fruits, shredded cheese, eggs and so on. These extras help students accommodate both cravings and dietary needs, to say nothing of the fun factor that comes with self-service bars.

Condiment bars come in all formats, too, from an all-purpose bar that can serve many menu platforms to such specialized concepts as salsa bars, oatmeal-topping stations, baked-potato bars and condiments for sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers.

For operators, summer is an ideal time to upgrade and freshen a condiment bar, as planning for the fall semester gets underway. Not only are many fruits and vegetables at their seasonal best, but warmer weather always spurs dietary changes and a sense of the new and fresh.

  • Beyond the usual ketchup and mustard, here are some ideas for adding appeal to condiment bars:
  • Alt-croutons like pita chips and seasoned tortilla strips
  • Relishes and chutneys
  • Seasoned or glazed nuts
  • Chimichurri or salsa verde
  • Infused olive oil or flavored oil such as sesame
  • Specialty hot sauces
  • Spice mixes such as Cajun seasoning, dukkah or za’atar
  • Global condiments (sambal, black bean sauce, Sriracha, gochujang, chipotle chiles en adobo)

Operators can also provide small dishes or paper condiment cups so students can take toppings and sauces to the tables to share communally as a dip. Flavored oils can be decanted into labeled, dropper-top bottles for ease of use.

Condiments like gochujang can be presented in their original bottles to send a message of authenticity, and cards or tents introducing more unusual ingredients such as dukkah (a trending Egyptian mix of herbs, nuts and spices) can contain information about ingredients and place of origin.

By offering these types of creative add-ons in a build-your-own format, operators can generate excitement and keep students craving.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
ISR

The Illinois Street Residence Hall (ISR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has come a long way since the start of the summer. What was just a hole in the ground now looks like an actual building. Its steel structure is up, and workers have constructed exterior temporary walls to allow them to begin tackling the interior.

“Now, it’s really about pulling all the electrical and all the plumbing. All of those things are becoming realistic for us,” says Director of University Housing Alma Sealine. “We actually won’t have walls up on the interior for a while, but that’s...

Menu Development
Culinary Trends

Fresh, made-from-scratch menu items are table stakes for restaurants these days—they’re what customers expect from fast casuals on up. So how can operators meet that expectation when labor costs keep rising and the labor pool keeps getting smaller? The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 30 years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and industry competition for skilled cooks is at an all-time high.

Simplifying the menu is one solution, finds Donna Lee, founder of Brown Bag Seafood Co., a fast casual with four units in Chicago. But simplifying doesn’t necessarily...

Menu Development
Shawerma

Grab-and-go options are growing in every operation, but customers are looking for choices that go beyond the same-old sandwiches, salads and packaged snacks. In fact, 29% of consumers overall and 40% of those in the 18-34 age group are looking for ethnic items specifically described as street foods, according to Technomic’s Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report , powered by Ignite . Not only are street foods a staple in many Asian, Latin and Mediterranean countries, they are typically portable and ready to grab-and-go .

Simplifying shawerma

“It’s important that fans...

Industry News & Opinion

Hawaii public schools are serving locally sourced sweet potato pie in celebration of Thanksgiving and their harvest of the month program.

The menu item is being served this month at over 200 schools throughout the state and will use local Okinawan sweet potatoes . This is the first time the Hawaii-grown sweet potatoes will be served in the cafeterias.

The recipe for the dish was created by one of the district’s cafeteria managers and her staff.

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code