Food service is all about the trends, but is the need to be creative getting in the way of the basics?
For a dish to work, the eating experience must be well-rounded. The success of new trends in food service has as much to do with practical application, appearance and texture as it does with taste. Both your regular diners and veteran foodies looking for the next great meal want the total package not a wildly inventive dish that’s full of promise but fails to satisfy.
Consider the following scenarios.
A man goes to a casual dining restaurant excited to try a new milkshake on the menu– chocolate and jalapeño pepper. The menu item has a unique appeal, but is flawed in one very basic way. Instead of infusing the peppers into the shake, the company mixes in slices hoping that the flavor from the pieces of fresh produce will enhance the eater’s experience.
The problem is the product is a milkshake, meaning most people will try to drink it through a straw. The man found that the pepper didn’t add to the taste, because the slices jammed up the straw. Instead of enjoying what sounds like an innovative dessert, the new milkshakes manage to frustrate many of the guests.
Trendy Cooking Techniques Fails
Sometimes finding new trends in food service isn’t about creating the next big dish, but improve how an old favorite is prepared. With the sous vide technique, chefs cook vacuum-sealed food on low temperatures for a long time. The goal is to seal in the juices of the meat and build on the natural flavor.
Sounds good, right? Well, yes and no.
The ability to produce a consistently cooked meal in a matter of minutes is certainly a boon for both busy restaurant kitchens and busy home cooks. But texture, flavor, and appearance aren’t determined solely by how something is cooked. Even the juiciest piece of meat or perfectly cooked vegetable could be ruined by an imperfect sauce or heavy hand on the spices.
Disastrous Food Combinations
Companies that strive to be unique sometimes create disastrous food mashups. Cooking is as much a science as it is an art. Certain food combinations might taste fine, but the pairings create an unpleasant texture or leave a harsh aftertaste.
A big, juicy burger placed between a bun made from pasta – in theory this could work, and in fact, some food entrepreneurs are trending burgers with buns made from ramen noodles or even mac and cheese. But will such novelty meals stand the test of time?
Serving consistently cooked pasta can be time consuming when you’re just plating up regular Italian. Getting enough perfectly cooked pasta for buns is another story. If the noodles are overcooked, the bun will be mushy. If undercooked, it will be difficult to eat.
Look at the Big Picture
Consider ways you can provide elegant and eclectic food without losing sight of what matters to your customers. Chicago chef Laurent Gras explains that when creating a new dish, there are 6 elements that you must consider:
- Aesthetic appeal
- Overall balance
Only once you have all the basics working in harmony can you begin to experiment in adapting new trends to suit the needs of your consumers. If you’re looking for inspiration, consider how you can personalize these popular food service trends earmarked by FastCasual.com:
- Ethnic cuisines– Traditional ethnic foods like sushi are showing a 3.2 percent rise in sales.
- Hot and spicy flavors– Hot sauce sales have gone up 3.5 percent in the last five years.
- Healthier options– Soy products instead of dairy, for example.
If you’re looking for trends that will stand the test of time, your focus should not be shock value. Restaurant goers want foods that provide a broad taste experience.
Repeat business is the goal of new trends in food service. Even the most stubborn foodie won’t order a dish a second time if a new flavor falls flat or has an unpleasant texture. Creative cuisine does not have to be over the top to be innovative, but it does have to be satisfying.