“Do you want fries with that?”
The better question for today’s diners is: “What would you like on your fries?” Hint: The answer isn’t ketchup.
According to 2016 MenuMonitor data from Technomic Inc., menu mentions of loaded fries grew by 12.5 percent and poutine is up 22 percent during the past two years. More than just a side, fries are now an opportunity to pile heartiness and more flavor onto the plate, demonstrate creativity and create differentiation. Moreover, premium fries offer to build sales across dayparts in satisfying ways for all-day grazers in search of satisfying sharing-plates, snack, bar and even breakfast items.
“Americans love potatoes, they love fries and consumers seek items not easy to make at home,” says Gordon Food Service® Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC. “Little deep-frying goes on in the home, so consumers look to restaurants.”
Three opportunities, Ludwig says, are standouts.
In general, Ludwig explains, this term refers to fries hand-cut in-house, cooked in some sort of animal fat and accompanied by unique toppings (e.g., a sprinkle of coarse-grained sea salt or smoked paprika) or housemade signature condiment/ sauce.
“We’re seeing an increase in the number of potato dishes cooked in beef tallow, lard and duck fat,” he says. “When cooking in that sort of natural fat, you’re getting a huge flavor boost. It’s truly the only way to create a french fry with zero trans fats.” Just be sure, he stresses, to dedicate a high-end tabletop fryer for cooking animal-fat fries.
Fries cooked in animal fat, he adds, are particularly appealing to millennials and Gen Z, who perceive them as more natural than mechanically and chemically extracted vegetable oil.
Canada’s national comfort food—fries tossed with cheddar-cheese curds doused and made melty with hot brown gravy—has gone mainstream here. “Poutine’s popularity is not decreasing,” Ludwig says.
“The sweet spot with poutine is crispy fries with saucy cheese as opposed brown gravy and cheddar curds,” Ludwig says. “You can also use global and American regional flavors to create your own signature poutine. There’s a huge opportunity for full-service and at sit-down restaurants to make poutine a bit more special and take it to another level.”
A number of uncomplicated fried-potato dishes deliver flavor, texture and distinction to snack and sharing-plates menus without necessarily being deep-fried. They don’t have to be complicated; but they do have to be flavorful.