Given the time and budget constraints placed on university dining halls, hospital retail outlets and similar foodservice operations, it isn't always easy to keep up with consumer demand for the latest flavor trends. Hospitals and colleges simply don't have the flexibility to change their menus on a whim or order exotic ingredients for use in just one dish.
However, staying on top of flavor trends and keeping menu options fresh is key to pleasing customers. Traditional American fare is no longer cutting it — according to the National Restaurant Association, including more ethnic spices and flavors is a rising trend in the industry.
That doesn't mean you have to reinvent your entire menu, though. There are simple ways to create bold flavors that will appeal to both adventurous and traditional diners alike. The key? Focus on your condiments.
Spice Up Your Condiments
Creating a spin on classic condiments and sauces is one of the most cost-effective ways to upgrade a menu. Whether it's a blend of ethnic spices or a clever twist on conventional condiments, there are unlimited ways to create new and exciting flavors with these elements.
Consider using condiments that are trending, such as chutney, tahini, harissa and wasabi. Or call on common condiments like hummus, aioli and barbecue sauce to give meals or sides a fresh twist. For example, Brussels sprouts with a spicy barbecue dipping sauce are easy to execute and will shine on your menu.
Unique condiments and sauces allow you to breathe new life into old menu favorites, perhaps with a name change, without having to change their core concept. You can place these new offerings "on the side" in smaller dishes to allow consumers to control how adventurous they want to be while providing optionality, customization and added value to the meal.
5 Condiments to Get Creative With
Here are five condiments and sauces that can be creatively modified and easily paired with poultry, beef, pork, seafood, grain and vegetable dishes:
- Slaw: This doesn't have to be made from traditional cabbage. Consider using shredded Brussels sprouts, apples and onions, or perhaps cucumbers, radishes, carrots and sunflower seeds. Slaw can take on a perennial twist depending on the season and the mood of the menu, especially when you experiment with dressings.
- Salsa: Making salsa with diced tropical fruits, like mango or pineapple, and minced red onion, lime juice and pepper awakens sweet and spicy tastes while offering texture and brightness to seafood and poultry dishes.
- Mustard: Blended with wine and fruits, or honey and hot sauce, mustard goes well with rich meats and roasts.
- Miso paste: Try blending miso paste with rice vinegar, ginger, garlic and a touch of sesame oil, which adds umami flavor to simple salads, vegetables, grains and Asian-inspired dishes.
- Cream sauce: When made with heart-healthy ingredients like nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds), olive oil and spices, cream sauces work well with everything from chicken to cheese ravioli.
Through repurposing classic condiments and sauces, your foodservice operation can easily appeal to the ever-changing tastes of consumers. Efforts like these will be appreciated by those seeking new flavor trends, and are within the realm of possibility for hospitals or higher education establishments on a budget. Focusing on condiments as a vehicle for spicing up menu capabilities is a win-win for everyone.