As the restaurant industry rides the bumpy road to recovery, the challenges faced by chefs and operators have evolved. Pain points like labor and supply persist, but a new problem has emerged: consumers are beginning to cut back on dining out. According to Black Box Intelligence, April saw a 3 percent drop in same-store sales comps year-over-year.
As foot traffic dwindles, operators who were relying on menu reductions and SKU rationalization to get through the worst of the pandemic are having to rethink things. Consumers want more novel options, not fewer—a recent Datassential study found that 75 percent of consumers are looking forward to seeing new and exciting foods on the menu. The new question has become how can operators create an appealing, on-trend menu that will drive foot traffic while still being cost and labor sensitive?
Many chefs are finding that not all menu innovation must be done in-house. Consider Posada Cruncheros, a line of frozen rolled tacos in four on-trend flavors that can be menued as a heat-and-serve item. Here’s a look at why an increasing number of operators are turning to Cruncheros.
An Eating Experience
Michael Castagna, vice president of foodservice marketing at Ajinomoto Foods North America, says that now more than ever, operators should be looking to create an experience for their customers. That means adding menu items that are shareable, on-trend, and craveable. “The experience has become such a critical component of food culture,” Castagna. “Right now the value proposition is important to consumers in foodservice because of the inflationary pressures they face.”
As Castagna alludes to, inflationary pressures mean that consumers want to earn a good bang for their buck when they dine out. “People are expecting value for their money,” adds Paul Bulman, director of marketing services and communications at Ajinomoto Foods North America. “They want a reasonable price point that aligns with their portion size because they’re watching their disposable income.”
Cruncheros offer operators a solution: a crunchy, on-trend eating experience with authentic flavor that can be shared across an entire table—well worth the reasonable price point.
Authentic Global Flavors
Posada Cruncheros come in four different on-trend flavors, including Rolled Chicken Taco, Korean BBQ, Nashville Hot, and Hatch Chili Chicken. The flavors capitalize on different trends, but all of them are made with Ajinomoto’s scientific approach to capturing the authenticity of various global flavors.
“All of these craveable flavors reflect trends we’re seeing in the market,” says Kathleen Hourihan, senior category manager for Ajinomoto Foods North America. “They are all authentic, elevated fillings that capitalize on the ‘familiar, with a twist’ concept that diners are looking for.”
Each Crunchero can be served on its own with a signature dipping sauce, or leveraged as a part of a larger recipe with almost zero additional labor. Each item also works in a variety of dayparts—Hourihan points to the Hatch Chili Chicken as something that would work as a brunch item, for example.
The Cruncheros are built with a tempura-inspired batter surrounding the tortilla to increase the crunch mouthfeel and to extend hold times. They are ideal for operators looking to add grab-and-go items, or to capitalize on off-premises sales.
“Nobody wants a soggy, rolled taco delivered to their house,” Hourihan says. “So not only is this product really easy for a kitchen to execute—they just have to heat and serve them—but diners love eating them either in-house or on-the-go.”
The mission for Posada and Ajinomoto Foods North America is to provide innovative foodservice solutions to operators that make their lives easier and their menus more attractive to diners. Their area of expertise and technique for executing on that mission is frozen foods, like Cruncheros, that deliver an on-trend, value-added experience.
“Beyond Cruncheros, we’re focused on bringing innovation to the marketplace across adjacent frozen food categories,” Castagna says. “Our goal is to bring together emerging flavors from across the world to make it easy for operators to create memorable food experiences for their consumers.”
For more on adding innovative heat-and-serve menu items, visit the Posada website.