Foodservice: Restaurant Report

A translation of trends from across the foodservice landscape

McDonald’s is suffering, millennials are cutting restaurant spending, operational costs are stinging, and yet the foodservice world keeps on spinning.

Spring delivered a bounty of new menu rollouts ranging from “power” bowls to mac and cheese topped with short ribs. Food halls are rising from coast to coast, offering c-stores ideas worth stealing. And on the coffee front, operators are catering to dairy-free demands—and boosting margins in the process.

Read on for multiple trends from the foodservice front, including customizable doughnuts, Asian-influenced hot dogs and lots of protein-laden lunches.

Menu Rollout Roundup

The world’s largest pizza chain, Pizza Hut launched a nearly 2-foot-long pizza in April that plays to the trends of customization, variety and interactivity. The Big Flavor Dippers Pizza is divided into 24 dipping strips and is available in 10 crust flavors, including salted pretzel and toasted Cheddar. It comes complete with four dipping sauces such as barbecue and honey sriracha. It’s part of the Flavor of Now menu that the Plano, Texas-based chain launched in November, with five base sauces, four sauce drizzles, five new “premium” ingredients and 10 crust options. The Big Flavor Dippers Pizza comes with one topping and four dipping sauces for $12.99.

Avocado continues to increase its presence on foodservice menus as a source of healthy fat. Dunkin’ Donuts introduced its first guacamole-slathered menu item in late April with the Bacon Guacamole Flatbread sandwich. The limited-time offer included two strips of bacon, egg, reduced fat Cheddar cheese and guacamole. The Canton, Mass.-based chain also rolled out a Mango Passion Fruit Coolatta frozen drink and resurrected its Frozen Arnold Palmer Coolatta.

On the c-store front, York, Pa.-based Rutter’s Farm Stores recently rolled out a macaroni and cheese offering that customers can top with beef short ribs, taco meat, chili, Philly steak or bacon. It also launched two regional specialties: Whoopie pies were added to the sweets menu, and fried sweet bologna joined Rutter’s extensive snacks and sides menu.

Both sweet and savory, chunks of Lebanon bologna, a specialty of the Pennsylvania Dutch, are fried to order and served with any of the dipping sauces available on Rutter’s menu. The new additions leverage the popularity of these local favorites in small portion sizes to help boost check averages.

Right around the same time that Technomic reported consumers are ordering turkey more often as a healthy meat option, Atlanta-based RaceTrac introduced three turkey sandwiches. The lineup includes Turkey & Swiss with Tomato, Southwest Turkey Ciabatta and the limited-time Turkey Club Pretzel with basil mayo, Cheddar cheese and bacon on a soft pretzel bun.

Delivering more protein and fewer carbs, London-based grab-and-go chain Pret A Manger launched a new line of bowls under the name Power Lunch. Each bowl contains fewer than 500 calories and focuses on functional ingredients for energy and sustenance.

The bowls range in price from $8.49 to $8.99 and include a roasted beet and feta combination with apple, walnuts and kale, and a Southwest chicken and avocado bowl with roasted corn salsa.