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    Sauces to Power Fall Restaurant Menus

    Photo one courtesy of ICR

    Sauces to Power Fall Restaurant Menus - Kandessa

    Restaurants looking to power up their menus for late fall and winter need look no further than a few sauces that have built a loyal following and created some excitement. Sure, this time of year marks the return of NFL football, and many Americans will succumb to the enticement of Buffalo-style sauce while watching a game. But even Buffalo aficionados have some interesting options, so perhaps other foods could benefit from something beyond the traditional apple, pumpkin, and cranberry sauces.

    "With a spicy hot kick, Buffalo Sauce offers those dining in a restaurant, at tailgating events or at home a bold and exciting flavor experience that mimics the excitement of the game," says Aaron Jourden, Technomic Editor. Buffalo Wild Wings, a chain of 784 restaurants, has expanded and gained a loyal cadre of customers on the reputation of its Buffalo-style chicken wings, but even the traditional connection of sporting events and Buffalo-style wings is open to some options.

    "Our wing sauces come in 14 flavors, in addition to a selection of dry rubs, and our flavors run the gamut from Asian Zing to Caribbean Jerk to Mango Habanero and everything in between," says Kathy Benning, Buffalo Wild Wings’ EVP of Global Marketing and Brand Development.

    Benning emphasizes that offering choices allows loyal customers to take advantage of weekly wing specials where different options are offered. "We like to say we have every taste bud covered," she says. Though customers are certainly apt to gobble up the main Buffalo-style offering, the chain offers 18 total flavors of wings between its various sauces and seasonings.

    "While chicken wings will always be king when it comes to Buffalo sauce, we’ve seen the flavor incorporated into other foods that consumers tend to eat during sporting events—namely Buffalo chicken pizzas," says Jourden. He notes that other popular items that get the "Buffalo treatment" include chicken sandwiches, chicken tacos, and fajitas, all served up Buffalo-style.

    At Buffalo Wild Wings, their expanded menu offerings can be customized with different sauces to provide a unique experience for each customer. As customers look for something different to add to their traditions, restaurants should also consider some exciting sauces to bring in those customers always looking for something new.

    Pick a Cherry or Two, or an Orange

    "Cherry sauce is more commonly seen in full-service restaurants, and is often paired with seafood and duck," says Technomic's Jourden, citing Technomic's MenuMonitor reporting.¹  "This means cherry sauces have lots of room for growth on LSR [limited-service restaurant] menus." While duck is the predominant type of meat flavored with cherry sauce, operators shouldn't lose sight of upscaling beef and pork entrees and sandwiches in this manner.

    Cherry sauce is an item that has grown in popularity over the recent years. At Chez Zee in Austin, Texas, Smoked Tenderloin is drizzled with a cherry sauce, and their Jack's Steak Sandwich, which carries a hangar steak served open-faced alongside tobacco onion rings and garlic mashed potatoes, also benefits from Chez Zee's signature cherry sauce. The bounty of cherries arrives in the summer in North America, but the plentiful fruit is perfect for adding a unique zest to duck-, beef- and pork-based sandwiches in the LSR setting as the colder months set in.

    Direct from Cuba and the Caribbean, citrus-based flavors have been creating a more tangy, fresh feel on menus for quite some time. The most popular citrus flavors come from oranges and lemons, either on their own or infused with garlic, cumin or other spices. Pork tends to be the staple in Cuban dishes, and the orange rind or juices can liven up the flavor profile of the pork, particularly when served up in sandwiches.

    Diving deep into non-traditional fall sauces isn't for everyone. Fall brings a bounty of flavors that customers associate with the season. For those not as brave, Jourden offers up this advice: "A thoughtful food or drink LTO [limited-time offer] featuring classic pumpkin, sweet potatoes, caramel, apples or other autumn ingredients can go a long way when it comes to creating excitement on the menu."

    Caramel is a perfect example of a more traditional and sought-after flavor profile, appearing on varied menu items during the fall.

    Cooking With Caramel: a Sticky Situation

    Caramel's staying power has long been acknowledged in culinary circles. But caramel is also flexible, as evidenced in the build for Starbucks' Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, a bittersweet mocha sauce and toffee-nut syrup capped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and a sprinkling of Starbucks’ premium sea-salt topping. According to Jourden, the drink launched in 2008 and shows the gourmet feel that sea salt can bring to the drink. In fact, earlier this year, Technomic found that salt, particularly in a premium format, has an increased prevalence in menus, and that consumers still look for it on menus².

    Caramel's flexibility can be seen in its use on entrees and sandwiches as well. From Todd Porter and Diane Cru comes the Vietnamese Caramel Braised Pork Belly Banh Mi. The two are professional photographers and filmmakers, appearing at various speaking engagements such as at Boston University and Blogger Camps in London and Cancun, and featured in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.

    While chains and independents may shy away from the pork belly, it's apparent that the flavors can be combined with more traditional pork loin meat or pork chops. If an operator needed inspiration for innovative uses of sauces, then it is found in Porter and Cru's brilliantly photographed sandwich.

    Traditions exist for a reason: people like them. Buffalo-style sauces, whether in the original or an upgraded version, will always be popular on the menu. At the same time, in LSR as well as full-service settings, using the not-so-typical sauces of fall can bring an added experience to your guests' plates, and excitement to your menu. Consider dropping the apples and pumpkins this time around, and give in to a mix of the not-so-extraordinary and traditional, but with a twist.

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    ¹,² Technomic MenuMonitor Data

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    Photo: courtesy of the Cilantropist, and ICR

    Copyright: Kandessa Media. All rights reserved.

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    This story appears in:  Food News & Trends