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Comfort foods, bowls increase in popularity in restaurants: Technomic report

Forty-six percent of restaurant operators find success with comfort foods

Comfort foods are rising as a top food category during the coronavirus pandemic. The rationale might be as simple as what is commonly thought: When consumers are facing an uncertain future, familiar and comforting preparations and ingredients become more desirable. Data released in November by foodservice consultancy Technomic prove out this category leadership.

On average, 46 percent of restaurant operators say they are having the most success with comfort foods, making it the top category, ahead of healthy foods, meal kits and luxury items. When it comes to delivery specifically, even more operators are finding success with comfort foods: 50 percent of respondents attest to that fact. Conversely, thirty-four percent of operators, on average, are seeing success with healthy foods.

Late fall and winter are ideal times to introduce comfort foods, including fried foods, global cuisine with familiar, anchor ingredients, hot seafood items, pizza, artisan pasta, and flatbreads. The comfort foods mega-category is quite expansive and there’s a lot of creativity that can play into it. And combined with seasonal ingredients, including pumpkin and squash, new and limited-time dishes can become an open flavor palette.

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Comfort food preparations that feature pumpkin provide a way to draw interest to the menu. Take, for example, some limited-time dishes being featured at Bonefish Grill, Au Bon Pain and Dairy Queen. According to Technomic, Bonefish Grill introduced a Swordfish and Pumpkin Ravioli dish: “wood-grilled swordfish, topped with crispy onions, crumbled feta and a hint of butter, served with pumpkin ravioli and choice of signature side.”

Au Bon Pain’s seasonal, pumpkin soup is back. It features a simmered preparation that’s made with onion, celery and carrots and lightly seasoned with fresh ginger and cinnamon. A Pumpkin Cookie Butter Shake by Dairy Queen blends cookie butter, pumpkin and real milk blended combined with its popular vanilla soft serve and garnished with whipped topping and ground nutmeg.

Bowls are another significant opportunity for restaurant operators as they look to elevate their menus in the minds of consumers. As Technomic points out, menu penetration of bowls is on the rise. When compared to the same quarter last year, third quarter 2020 menu mentions of Mexican bowls increased 61.8 percent, breakfast bowls rose 21.5 percent and smoothie bowls increased 15.0 percent.

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Boston Market has also implemented bowls as part of its late-night menu rollout, per Technomic, drawing on their flexibility, customization and easy adaption of comfort foods.

To access additional menu insights, navigate to Technomic’s Weekly Industry Insights report.

Photo credit: Louise Burton (featured preview image)

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