Build a Crave-Worthy Menu

Hamburger with egg

Finding the right atmosphere, foods and flavors can be the ingredients that draw customers in and keep them coming back.

Everyone has a favorite dish, a favorite restaurant, a favorite take-out location. People are simply drawn to what they crave. Across the four most common generations, cravings are a huge reason why diners choose to eat what they do, and dine where they dine. 

More than 4 out of 5 customers surveyed by Technomic Inc. for their Menu Positioning and Occasion Driver Consumer Trend Report, say that cravings are the main reason they purchase food away from home at least once a month. 

Yet craveability isn’t a one-size-fits-all factor. Different generations crave different flavors, foods, and atmospheres; however, there are some foods and flavors that stand the test of time, appealing to all generations. 

What Your Customers Are Craving

Customizable Menu Staples

Pizza and burgers are staples on menus at upscale casual, diners, fast food, and take-out restaurants. While these dishes are favorites, not everyone can agree on which toppings or ingredients are the best. 

Upscale casual restaurants can serve classic margherita pizzas from a wood-fired oven, or experiment with premium ingredients like prosciutto or specialty cheeses, while fast food and take-out are opting for more subtle customization. Diners are now finding flavored and stuffed crusts, finishing sauces, and house-specials on menus, allowing for a touch of personalization without compromising the speed of service. 

The same goes for burgers. Take-out locations are adding more toppings to menus, such as fried eggs, flavored aiolis (peppercorn, chipotle, sun dried tomato), pesto, fried onion strings, caramelized onions, and sweet onion bacon jam. Bolder cheeses and hints of barbecue also are popular—smoked cheddar, blue cheese, double-smoked bacon, bourbon barbecue sauce, and pulled pork. And don’t forget the protein under the toppings—turkey, pork, bison, lamb, and meatless ingredients, such as quinoa or black bean patties. These should be customizable as well. The Burger Consumer Trend Report found as many as two thirds of consumers (64 percent) now place high priority on the ability to customize burgers and 55 percent find build-your-own-burgers appealing.

Decadent, Easy-to-Make Desserts

Sometimes all it takes is the smell of baked goods to get diners to start craving something sweet and decadent. From cakes, pies, tortes, and even skillet dishes, there’s a never-ending menu of desserts that can be added to any menu. 

According to Technomic Inc., craveable dessert selections that match the personality of the restaurant or the quality of the menu can boost check averages and give consumers a reason to return to that restaurant rather than opting for somewhere else.

Whether it’s a delectable delight made from near-universally loved chocolate, or a warm slice of pie served a la mode, there’s a dessert out there that not only fits your menu, but suits your diners’ cravings.

Sweet and Savory

From daytime and late-night snacks to sharing plates and appetizers, the infusion of sweet and savory flavors into the menu is continuing to be a mouthwateringly craveable combination. Dessert sundaes with chocolate-covered pretzels, salads topped with savory cheese and sweet fruits, and biscuits with mascarpone and fruit compote all provide that flavorful combination your diners’ are looking for.  

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box—employ this craveable combination on all sections of your menu. Try serving up savory pancakes, bacon-infused desserts, or add candied pecans to a sandwich wrap. You can also craft a signature house sauce, such as a spicy ketchup or a Parmesan and herb aioli, to serve alongside fries or onion rings. 

Better-for-You

Not all food cravings are sinful dessert offerings, or rich, fried dishes. Sometimes diners across generations just crave something fresh. As consumers are continuing to search menus for health halo cues, it’s important to provide menu offerings that suit the desire for something “good for you.” 

A large salad menu with fresh ingredients and innovative dishes can certainly appease your customers, but try offering sandwiches made with the same fresh ingredients, or offer low-fat, gluten-free versions of some of your menu stars. 

No matter the menu staple using these craveable flavors and dishes can satisfy a variety of appetites.