Menu Makers

Ten trends to upgrade your foodservice program

CHICAGO -- Whether you’re revolutionizing your c-store foodservice offering or just looking for a little boost, consider these trending ideas, cultivated from Chicago-based Datassential. The research firm collected all 65 issues of its FoodBytes publication from 2014 for one comprehensive look at food trends on the horizon. Here, we’ve pulled out some that would fit quite well on a c-store menu, and talked to Datassential for their opinion on how these trends could take shape for you. 

1. Pep it Up

“One of the big themes we’re seeing on menus is new and interesting ways to add heat, new sauces and peppers to provide spiciness for food,” said Mark DiDomenico director of client solutions for Datassential. “This definitely has some implications for c-stores.” Sriracha, chipotle and Thai chili sauces have already made appearances at convenience-store chains. What’s next?

2. Flatbread Frenzy

It’s a cousin of pizza—a cousin with class. Flatbreads topped with creative combinations of meats, cheeses, veggies and sauces are making their way into fast-casual dining all over the country.

3. Better in a Bowl

Bowl meals have experienced steady growth on QSR menus for the past four years with chains such as Jamba Juice and Taco Bell adding them to their offerings. Chipotle recently announced that it now sells more bowls than burritos. Think about your menu: Would anything sell better in a bowl?

4. Churros: Deep-Fried Deliciousness

These sticks of deep-fried dough fit in nicely with traditional convenience-store fare. But now the classic cinnamon-sugar coating is being reinvented. Variations of the churro—chocolate dipped, pumpkin infused, etc.—are popping up on menus around the world.

5. Nuts About Cronuts

The Cronut was born in a single New York bakery but has quickly grown from curiosity to craving. Variations are appearing on menus at Jack in the Box, Red Robin and Maverik, and its fame is only growing. More and more consumers say they would not only try a Cronut but would go out of their way to get a taste.

6. Dinner for Breakfast

Since breakfast is often a big meal for c-store foodservice, retailers would do well to pay attention to this trend. “Typical lunch/dinner items are now being served up for breakfast,” DiDomenico said. “You’ve heard of breakfast sandwiches. Now there are breakfast tacos, pasta and pizza. Operators are changing things up.”

7. Brew with a Brewsky

As craft beer continues to find its place in convenience stores, retailers should think about potential add-ons and add-ins. Datassential has found operators using beer as an ingredient in cupcakes and cheeses and as a steaming agent for meats and seafood. The possibilities are endless.

8. Sweet Teeth

“Millennials always rate highly concepts that are dessert- or sweet-oriented,” DiDomenico said. “If you’re looking to target those customers, think sweet coffee beverages, shakes and malts.”

9. Main Squeeze

In one study, Datassential found that more consumers were interested in smoothies than espresso-based drinks at upscale convenience stores. And fresh-squeezed juices are becoming increasingly popular in the restaurant world. Maybe a juice bar is in your foodservice future.

10. Gelato

Datassential reported that 43% of customers want to try gelato. Consider adding pints of the smooth Italian ice cream to your freezer shelves.