Yelp! reports that 2022 saw rising interest in experiential dining. The review site points to a pair of statistics to illustrate the trend: searches on the platform for “dinner theater” rose 109 percent, while searches for “underwater restaurant” increased by 263 percent.
“Experiential dining is creeping from fine dining on down to other segments,” says Mark Slutzky, director of culinary with McCain Foods. “Whether that’s eating at a theater-like restaurant, or going to a place that has robotic servers, operators are wondering: ‘How do we create some experience that really stands out for the diner?’”
While not every restaurant can screen movies or install aquariums, experiential dining is still a trend that restaurant operators can look to capitalize on by using other methods. One way to do that is by menuing items that are new, on-trend, and exciting.
McCain Foods recently released a new product that’s designed to help operators meet the moment: McCain Mini Mashers™, a shareable appetizer with a crispy outside and creamy mashed potatoes inside.
McCain Mini Mashers™ were created with experiential dining specifically in mind. “The Mini Mashers were inspired by the idea of getting back together with your friends, family, or coworkers,” Slutzky says. “Whether that’s for happy hour or any other shared experience, this is a delicious, shareable treat.”
While diners may be looking for something exciting, many may also want that experience to feel approachable. This is an area where Mini Mashers™ excel, says Slutzky.
“The size and the shape of Mini Mashers™ is unique and different,” Slutzky says. “Yet it is also something diners are familiar with. It perfectly fits what both the operator and the consumer are looking for.”
Mini Mashers™ were designed to be a “culinary canvas,” Slutzky says. Chefs and operators can serve them as a standalone menu item with a signature sauce, or begin to innovate with different flavor profiles. The product’s versatility lends itself to new creations that may pique the interest of all types of diners.
“It’s really an extremely versatile product,” Slutzky says. “They’re versatile because of that texture, of the flavor, and the fried-potato outside, mashed inside. It’s very malleable and can be a carrier of a wide range of flavors.”
Because of that ability to carry many flavors, McCain Mini Mashers™ can be a great way for operators to add global flare to the menu. As new international trends emerge and begin to command attention from diners, operators can use McCain Mini Mashers™ as a way to experiment with those trends.
“They can be tossed in different seasonings and drizzled in different sauces that let the operator express what’s in vogue at the moment,” Slutzky says. “You can really go global—whether that’s southeast Asian, Indian, or really hyper localized Korean flavors. It works with Latin flavors, too: Peruvian, things beyond that standard Tex Mex in a way that feels really authentic and exciting.”
In a world where chefs and operators are struggling with day-to-day challenges like supply chain shortages and inexperienced kitchen staff, attempting to provide an experiential outlet may seem daunting. That’s where McCain Mini Mashers™ come in—with long hold times and a craveable flavor profile and texture, McCain Mini Mashers™ are a product that can do the heavy lifting when it comes to entertaining a group.
“What I love about our company is that we have that entrepreneurial spirit,” Slutzky says. “That drives us to innovate in a way where we are constantly thinking about what both the consumer and the operator have in mind. We’re not just marketing to the end user, we’re working with operators and chefs to find solutions that make their lives a little bit easier. McCain Mini Mashers™ are a result of that entrepreneurial spirit.”
For more on the experience that is the Mini Masher, visit the McCain Foods website.