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Build a Crave-Worthy Menu

Everyone has a favourite dish, a favourite restaurant, a favourite take-out location. People are simply drawn to what they crave. Across the four most common generations (baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z), cravings are a huge reason why diners choose to eat what they do, and dine where they dine.

Cravings are the main reason four out of five consumers purchase food away from home at least once a month, according to Technomic Inc.'s "Menu Positioning and Occasion Driver Consumer Trend Report."

Although craveability isn't always a one-size-fits-all factor, some foods and flavours stand out—appealing to all generations.

Customizable Menu Staples

With both the better-burger and gourmet pizza trends gaining even more traction with consumers today, offering an enticing array of toppings and ingredients makes good business sense. Burgers and pizzas lend themselves beautifully to customization—take advantage here and give your customers the power to build their own experience.

To remain competitive in the red-hot pizza category, you have to up your game. From showcasing authentic cues like “wood-fired” or “hand-stretched” to serving premium ingredients like prosciutto, specialty cheeses, or fresh herbs, allowing guests to customize their experience is key. Other areas where custom touches offer an easy upgrade include flavoured and stuffed crusts, finishing sauces or oils, and creative garnishes, allowing for personalization without compromising speed of service.

Similar customization opportunities exist for the burger category. Many operations that offer pizza, including take-out locations are adding more toppings to menus, such as fried eggs, flavored aïolis (peppercorn, chipotle, sun-dried tomato), pesto, fried onion strings, caramelized onions, and sweet onion-bacon jam. A choice of unique, craveable ingredients work well here. Consider bolder cheeses, like smoked cheddar or blue cheese, for instance. Smokey/sweet barbecue flavors add interest: maybe it's double-smoked bacon, maple-barbecue sauce or apple-cider pulled pork. Also, give your guests options with their patties. Maybe it's turkey, pork, bison, or lamb. Meatless protein options are gaining favour, too—quinoa or black bean patties are both delicious and nutritious. The Burger Consumer Trend Report found as many as two thirds of consumers (64 percent) now place high priority on the ability to customize burgers and 55 percent find build-your-own-burgers appealing.

Decadent, Easy-to-Make Desserts

According to Technomic Inc., craveable dessert selections that match the personality of the restaurant or the quality of the menu can boost check averages and give consumers a reason to return to that restaurant rather than opting for somewhere else.

Whether it’s a delectable delight made from near-universally loved chocolate, or a warm slice of pie served à la mode, there’s a dessert out there that not only fits your menu, but suits your diners’ cravings.

Sweet and Savoury

From daytime and late-night snacks to sharing plates and appetizers, the infusion of sweet with savoury continues to be a craveable flavour combination. Dessert sundaes with chocolate-covered pretzels, salads topped with savoury cheese and sweet fruits, and biscuits with mascarpone and fruit compote all provide that flavourful combination your diners’ look for.  

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box—employ this craveable combination on all sections of your menu. Try serving up savoury pancakes, bacon-infused desserts, or add candied pecans to a sandwich wrap. You can also craft a signature house sauce, such as a harissa ketchup or a Parmesan-herb aïoli, to serve alongside fries or onion rings.

Better-for-You

Not all food cravings are sinful dessert offerings, or heavy fried dishes. Sometimes diners across generations just crave something fresh. As consumers are continuing to search menus for health halo cues, it’s important to provide menu offerings that suit the desire for something “good for you.”

A large salad menu with fresh ingredients and innovative combinations can certainly thrill your customers, but also try offering sandwiches made with the same fresh ingredients, or offer low-fat, gluten-free versions of some of your menu stars.

No matter the menu staple, using these craveable flavours can satisfy a variety of appetites—and do what craveability does best—bring people back for more.

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