Adapting to the Times
With technology and trends developing faster than ever before, it can be a challenge for chefs and operators to keep up—and to know which are relevant for their operations. Mondelēz International Foodservice Chef Patty Mitchell helps us focus on the major industry trends that warrant operator attention right now, including the move towards smaller plates, profitable dessert cocktails and the delivery economy.
What advice can you give to chefs and operators who want to make their menus stand out from the competition?
Look at the trends, then put your own twist on them. It’s important to know what your competition is doing and what the broader flavor trends are while keeping within the bounds of your restaurant style. People come to your restaurant because they like the style of your food. Give them change, but don’t go over the boundaries of what YOUR customer is comfortable with.
Alcohol is becoming increasingly important at FSRs1 as consumer demand for newer beverage options grows. What are some ways you’ve incorporated America’s favorite brands into adult beverages?
In creating alcohol-forward concepts using our brands, I had to think a bit outside the box, especially for cookies, as adding liquid changes their texture. After some trial and error, I decided to infuse the cookies into the liquor as well as use them to garnish the beverage.
The Whiskey Root Beer Float has NILLA Wafers infused in the whiskey as well as blended into the ice cream. It's a fun way to recreate an old staple. The Rum Coffee Cream uses OREO-infused rum, an OREO cream topping and a garnish of OREO Base Cake.
I had to get even more creative when I was experimenting with the SOUR PATCH-based beverage that would become the Cosmo Float. I decided to do a riff on the Cosmopolitan because it shares complementary flavors with the candy. I wanted to make the beverage fun and interesting—maybe something for a group of friends to share on Instagram. I whipped cream with SOUR PATCH Variegate and floated a dollop on top of the Cosmo, then sprinkled on some chopped SOUR PATCH Bitz, giving layers of visual and textural interest. The creaminess of the whipped cream softens the alcohol, making this beverage very approachable for people looking for a fun cocktail that’s not over-the-top strong.
Consumers are loving shareable items and small plates—36% order small plates to share with others.2 What are some new small-plate menu items you’ve worked on for Mondelēz?
I've got some really great new shareable appetizer ideas up now in the Culinary Center: Candied Bacon with SOUR PATCH KIDS Variegate, Fried Pickle Slices with Pimiento Cheese Dip and RITZ Crackers, and Sticky Chicken Wings made with SOUR PATCH Kids Variegate and gochujang chili paste. The last is a little bit more mainstream: it's a Mediterranean Polenta coated with crushed RITZ Crackers and served with burrata and oven-dried tomatoes.
All of these are based on enduringly popular or trendy items, but with a unique twist.
What advice can you give to other chefs and operators who are developing small plates, particularly in terms of imparting big flavor?
Think about the story you’re telling through the flavor. Why did you choose the items on your menu? Did the dish come from an experience while traveling? People like to know why the chef did what he or she did.
I think about what I like to eat or something I’ve seen and how I can incorporate our brands. The Mediterranean Polenta with RITZ Crackers is a great example of that. Polenta is recognizable to everyone, but by coating it in RITZ Crackers our take is unique and different. The saltiness and buttery flavor of RITZ Crackers goes particularly well with the polenta and the creamy burrata, while oven-roasted tomatoes and a good balsamic glaze elevate the dish. All of these elements work together to bring a burst of flavor and texture with every bite.
We’re seeing more and more consumers ordering takeout and delivery. In fact, takeout and delivery orders make up to 58% of all foodservice orders among regular takeout consumers, two-thirds of whom say they order takeout at least three or four times per month.3 How can chefs modify their menus to meet this growing trend?
Many restaurants are creating a menu just for delivery, with items that hold up well and can easily be reheated without destroying their integrity. This menu may be completely new, but more often it's a combination of delivery-exclusive and regular menu items.
Items that work particularly well are those that won’t dry out when reheated, or don't need to be heated at all. Desserts are the easiest item for take-out for this reason. I recommend keeping a selection of cakes, bars, brownies and cookies at the ready for take-out orders. These also make profitable “impulse add-ons” when people order online.
Let’s not forget packaging, and not just to keep the food fresh until the customer gets it home. Consider packaging that has visual appeal or personality, giving customers something to remember your restaurant by in addition to the delicious food. Your packaging is the first thing they see when they open the bag or box at home—your first impression—so put time into making it special.
1. Technomic, Consumer Food Trends 2019
Back to Culinary Corner
2. Technomic, Small Plates Menu Trends, Q3 2018
3. Technomic Takeout & Off-Premise Consumer Trend Report 2018