Chicken pot pie spring rolls on a plate with dipping sauce and slaw

Make Comfort Food a Menu Star

Three steps to adding appeal and increasing sales with familiar classics.

Comfort food is always in season. As the winter months approach, it’s a good time to make comfort food a menu star. It appeals to hungry consumers, and restaurant operators can call on it to simplify purchasing, production and labour issues. 

Elevating comfort foods to new heights takes more than just adding time-tested favourites to the menu. As with any recipe for success, it takes a pinch of nuance and a dash of playfulness. 

“The right menu offerings, new interpretations and enticing marketing can heat up sales and revenue,” says Chef David Evans, a Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialist in Ontario. He recommends three ways to make comfort food a menu star: 

1. Elevate it—improve the perception and value for customers. 
2. Create a service mashup— marry two comfort food icons. 
3. Deconstruct, reconstruct and mash it up again—get global with it. 

Elevating comfort food classics By definition, comfort food is enjoyable. Even so, getting customer orders calls for a strong menu description. Enhance the guest experience by taking a popular dish and elevating it to star status in a few words. 

Weak: Shepherd’s pie.
Strong: Shepherd’s pie with Guinness demi glace and topped with Stilton mashed potatoes. 

Weak: Chicken pot pie. 
Strong: Chicken pie, with creamy sauce, French thyme and organic vegetables under a flaky pastry. 

“You don’t want to overdo it,” Evans notes. “But a small investment in one or two very flavourful and perceived exotic elements can send a dish to a much higher level.”

Mashups aren’t new, but creating them with comfort foods is an excellent way to use resources. Incorporating a new serving style or a traditional carrier creates a new menu option with minimal extra time and expense. 

“If you have staff preparing the comfort food dish already, the effort required to increase basic preparation and ramp up the volume is less effort than retooling to create many different dishes,” Evans says.

Create a new service mashup

Mashups aren’t new, but creating them with comfort foods is an excellent way to use resources. Incorporating a new serving style or a traditional carrier creates a new menu option with minimal extra time and expense. 

“If you have staff preparing the comfort food dish already, the effort required to increase basic preparation and ramp up the volume is less effort than retooling to create many different dishes,” Evans says.

The practice calls on cross-utilization of ingredients, using them across sections of the menu. The advantages include: 

  • Reducing labour costs. 
  • Decreasing the variety of products to buy and store. 
  • Limiting vendor deliveries (and costs associated with maintaining multiple vendors). 
  • Keeping inventory low and creating optimum freshness and quality. 

How it works: Make extra volume of your chicken pot pie base and use it in a spring roll wrapper as an appetizer or sharing plate.

Comfort food mashup graphic examples

Deconstruct, reconstruct and mash up

Another way to make comfort food a star is to revamp it. 

“It’s the menu version of building a hot rod. Pull apart tired menu items and put them back together as something new,” Evans says. “It’s exciting and tasty.” An example he suggests uses lasagna. Take the traditional Italian classic, deconstruct it, then reconstruct it Korean-style. 

Sauce: Turn the bolognese meat sauce into a Korean bulgogi sauce or barbecue sauce. A white sauce variation could be made using gochujang. 
Noodles: Use fried wontons or spring roll wraps as the lasagna noodles. 
Cheese: Include a little smoked cheddar to elevate all ingredients. 
“It’s an exciting and interesting alternative,” Evans says. “And you can charge a menu price in line with food costs and the perception of a comfort food menu star.”

Comfort-food mashups like this Korean Lasagna add excitement with little extra expense or labour.

Need comfort food ideas? Go to gfs.ca/ideas for recipes and strategies to drive profits to your bottom line.