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As chefs look to create on-trend menu items that diners will connect with, a multitude of factors are making that as challenging as ever. For one, brands are dealing with a dearth of kitchen talent. That makes reliable, easy-to-work-with ingredients as important as ever.

Secondly, diners’ tastes and interests are rapidly evolving, and keeping up with trends must feel like a moving target to some chefs. But one thing is clear: After a year in which restaurant dining wasn’t an option for many, diners are now craving both great food experiences and menu items that are eye-catching and worth sharing on social media. 

One way to meet the moment with menu items that shine is by using versatile ingredients to create signature sauces that can be used across a menu and require little-to-no labor.

Red sauces, like Red Gold and Redpack Prepared Sauces, are some of the most versatile tools when it comes to crafting “menu winners.” This slideshow will take a look at six different red-hot menu items created by leveraging Redpack Prepared Sauces and other Red Gold sauces. 

LTOs have always been a great way to drive traffic, and that’s never been more true than now, as diners look to return to restaurants and purchase something craveable and Instagrammable. One red-sauce-infused item that’s trending is Pizza Fries, which according to Datassential has grown 93 percent on menus in the past four years. It’s an easy item to make with Red Gold’s Marinara Sauce, a classic that chefs love to use and diners love to eat. 

The desire for spicy foods has never been higher—Datassential reports that, coming out of the pandemic, 42 percent of consumers are craving spicy foods. Red Gold Spicy Marinara is yet another versatile red sauce that can be used across a menu, like on the Spicy Marinara Meatball Sliders pictured above. The dish is yet another shareworthy photo opportunity waiting to happen. 

There’s perhaps no reliable and ongoing trend as surefire as Americans’ love for pizza: Datassential reports that 30 percent of consumers are still craving pizza after a year of consuming a high rate of comfort foods. This unique mash-up—a Pizza Burger with Truffle Fries—also features another particularly trendy item, as truffle fries have grown 26 percent on menus since 2017. 

One easy way to grow ticket sizes is by upcharging for a side of marinara. It adds up quickly: If a restaurant sells 200 marinara sauces each week at $.50 per, that’s $5,200 in extra revenue per year. 

Datassential lists Mexican cuisine as the number one category diners are craving during the pandemic. Creating craveable salsa to help enhance a brand’s own spin on authentic Mexican street tacos is especially easy when using Red Gold or Redpack Prepared Sauces. 

“Familiar, with a twist” is another trend that helps connect with diners by making the adventurous feel approachable. Chicken Parmesan Strips are a fun and creative twist on the traditional Italian dish—by just adding Red Gold sauce and some grated cheese, chefs have an on-trend menu item that’s perfect for takeout, dine-in, or drive-thru occasions. 

Short-staffed kitchens can get more taste with less work using Red Gold’s prepared sauces in applications like this Mexican-inspired twist: a chicken-topped pizza. 

The dish is yet another example of how a lack of labor should not keep chefs and brands from innovating in order to attract business. For more on adding Red Gold’s prepared sauces to your kitchen to unlock menu items diners will connect with, visit the Red Gold website.