A trend that's twisted

soft pretzel restaurant foodservice

From J&J Snack Foods.

When was the last time you enjoyed a soft pretzel? Wherever you were, you likely noticed soft pretzels have taken on new shapes and forms, such as rolls, flatbreads, bites, knots and even giant 24oz. shareable sandwiches.

According to Technomic, this trend is growing: Menu mentions of soft pretzels on appetizer menus rose 2.8 percent over the past two years and 45 percent as an add-on during the same time period. These increases stem mainly from innovations on casual dining menus, but it doesn’t stop there. Many large national chains have used soft pretzel sticks and buns to add a gourmet flair to a simple side or turn a burger into an upscale offering, all with minimal change to operations.

This growth is driven in part by consumers’ all-day eating. According to Baum & Whiteman, snacking has increased 47 percent between 2010 and 2014. This has amplified the demand for smaller, on-the-go offerings, and many operators looking to take advantage of both the snacking and soft-pretzel trends have innovated not only in product, but packaging as well.

For instance, soft pretzel bites in portable cups with a heated display case appeals to busy, on-the-go consumers. Soft pretzel options are a perfect fit for the rising trend of grab-and-go or retail meal solutions, where traditional retail outlets expand foodservice offerings to consumers. Adding pretzel warming equipment to a foodservice counter or kiosk promotes the image of a fresh product, while providing a great visual and temptation for an impulse purchase.

For more intimate eating occasions, consumers aren’t necessarily looking for convenience and instead opt for extravagant and impressive foods to share on social media. The trend has reached such critical mass that restaurants are making their ambience more photo-friendly to entice customers to take photos and share with their social circles.

In order to cater to this trend, operators can offer unique food options that are worthy of sharing with friends, such as a jumbo crab-topped pretzel. This eccentric appetizer, a three pound (24oz.) soft pretzel topped with crab meat and melted cheddar cheese, has already made a splash on social media. The size and appearance is eye-catching, but the delicious taste and sharable nature are sure to leave an even more lasting impression on every customer.

Soft pretzel French toast is another post-worthy and inspired mash up. This nostalgic twist (pun intended) combines the chewy texture of a soft pretzel with the sweetness of homemade French toast. This recipe is an operator’s dream: a trendy new entree that can be served across eating occasions that’s simple to make and requires only the most basic of ingredients.

No matter how you serve them—salted, with dips, as a sandwich, rolled in topping—soft pretzels are a great way to provide your guests with customizable options. Available in a variety of styles, you can choose the traditional soft and delicious twisted soft pretzel or go for a more authentic Bavarian-style dough. Either way, bend the rules of pretzels this year and add more soft pretzels to your menu.

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