Transforming Your Foodservice At Retail Operation From Average To Awesome

Amy Myrdal Miller - Produce on the Menu

One of the biggest trends restaurant operators are watching today Amy Myrdal Miller - Produce on the Menuis how foodservice retail establishments are biting into their‭ ‬business‭. ‬If you want to take a bigger bite of this business opportunity‭, ‬you may need to make some changes to your offerings‭.‬

If your deli case is still filled with coleslaw and macaroni salad from a tub‭, ‬assorted cold cuts‭, ‬fried chicken‭, ‬and meatloaf‭, ‬maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at your offerings‭. ‬Here are some tips to get you started‭.‬

1. Fresh Sells‭.‬‭ ‬“Fresh”‭ ‬is the most common descriptor used on American menus‭, ‬according to insights from Chicago-based‭ ‬market research firm Datassential‭. ‬If you’re not already doing this‭, ‬try using the descriptor on your menu boards and signage‭. ‬Fresh means‭ ‬“good for me and my family”‭ ‬to your shopper‭, ‬which plays into the growing trend of increasing demand for health and wellness at retail‭. ‬And while fresh can‭ ‬describe anything from freshly baked bread to fresh caught seafood‭, ‬most consumers equate fresh with produce‭. ‬Freshly-prepared‭ ‬sauces and salad dressings are another way to add additional appeal to produce-centric menu offerings‭.‬

2. Local Sells‭.‬‭ ‬If you sell produce from local vendors‭, ‬don’t just highlight this in the produce department‭. ‬Feature local produce in your foodservice offerings as well‭. ‬Restaurants across‭ ‬the country have been doing this for years‭, ‬and consumers take notice‭. ‬They want to know how and where their food was produced‭;‬‭ ‬putting a farm or farmer’s name on the menu adds more comfort and familiarity to new foods and flavors‭.‬

3. Flavor Sells‭.‬‭ ‬Who’s running your foodservice operation‭? ‬If it’s a trained culinary professional‭, ‬they will likely welcome the opportunity to bring in some new flavor profiles from Asia‭, ‬Latin America‭, ‬and the Mediterranean‭. ‬If your shoppers include Millennials who love trying new foods‭, ‬they’ll appreciate you upping your game with new ingredients and offerings‭. ‬A common theme in the restaurant industry is‭ ‬“make the familiar exotic‭, ‬and the exotic familiar”‭ ‬meaning you can introduce new flavors to familiar foods‭, ‬and you can introduce new foods with familiar flavors‭. ‬Just don’t push your customer too far too fast‭. ‬And don’t make your customer work too hard to understand new concepts‭. ‬Provide menu names and descriptors that quickly tell the story of‭ ‬the new offering‭. ‬Suvir’s Green Beans with Coconut is a good example of an intensely flavorful dish that features a familiar ingredient with a more exotic yet appealing flavor profile‭.‬

4. Salads Sell‭.‬‭ ‬If your strategy includes offering more fresh‭, ‬flavorful foods‭, ‬focus first on salads‭. ‬Produce can fit into all salad categories‭, ‬from pasta and fruit salads to bean‭, ‬greens‭, ‬and grain-based salads‭. ‬Need some inspiration‭? ‬Check out Chef Joyce Goldstein’s Mediterranean Fresh‭, ‬a cookbook featuring 110‭ ‬recipes for salads and 30‭ ‬recipes for salad dressings to mix and match with the salads‭. ‬These recipes‭ ‬are based on a mixture of seasons‭, ‬mood‭, ‬and marketing‭.‬

5. Pizza Pleases‭.‬‭ ‬Does your foodservice program include pizzas and flatbreads‭? ‬If so‭, ‬consider them blank canvases for culinary creativity and presenting new flavor profiles‭. ‬Pizzas and flatbreads are a wonderful menu category for increasing sales of a type of food Americans eat often‭. ‬National dietary intake data show that about 1‭ ‬in 8‭ ‬Americans eats pizza on any given day‭. ‬More than 25‭ ‬percent of‭ ‬boys‭ (‬ages 6-19‭ ‬years‭) ‬eat pizza every day‭. ‬And don’t overlook flatbreads‭. ‬We think part of their appeal is based on its more artistic‭, ‬“artisan”‭ ‬shape‭. ‬Artisan is synonymous with‭ ‬“hand-made”‭ ‬or‭ ‬“made just for me‭.‬”‭ ‬Many in foodservice are already capitalizing on flatbread as a way to add interest to a popular menu category‭. ‬According to Guest Metrics‭ (‬a Cambridge‭, ‬MA-based data analytics firm delivering consumer insights and actionable intelligence to the food‭, ‬beverage‭, ‬hospitality and financial services industries‭) ‬about 60‭ ‬percent of recent incremental growth in the pizza category in foodservice is due to the addition of flatbreads‭.‬

6. Snacks Satisfy‭.‬‭ ‬According to the Bellevue‭, ‬WA-based The Hartman Group‭, ‬half of all eating occasions are now snack occasions‭, ‬accounting for one‭-‬third of adult calorie consumption in the United States‭. ‬What can your foodservice operation do to prompt more snacking‭? ‬This can be as simple as providing a greater variety of fresh-cut fruit in take-out containers‭; ‬or you can develop a snack program that features unique dips and crackers‭. ‬This year is the FAO‭ ‬“Year of the Pulse‭.‬”‭ ‬What about a hummus program that features a different version each day of the week‭? ‬Chickpeas are obvious‭, ‬but what about hummus made from beans‭, ‬peas‭, ‬and lentils‭? ‬Let your bakery department contribute unique crackers‭, ‬spiced pita chips‭, ‬or crostini‭.‬

There’s no end to the options for improving and enhancing your foodservice at retail program‭. ‬We hope our ideas spur more creative and strategic thinking at your store‭!‬

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND, is a farmer’s daughter from North Dakota, award-winning dietitian, culinary nutrition expert, and founder and president of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting LLC. Suvir Saran is an award-winning chef and restaurateur. Born in Delhi, India, today Suvir lives on a farm in upstate New York. His next restaurant is scheduled to open in San Francisco in 2016.