A craveable, convenient menu is more important than ever—and everything starts with a versatile base.

After the last two years of COVID-19 lockdowns, consumers are ready to treat their tastebuds. A recent Datassential report found that 65 percent of surveyed adults are tired of cooking for themselves.

Restaurant guests are looking for cuisines that are more difficult to prepare at home. They may have been craving certain flavors during the pandemic, but were unable to satisfy those cravings from their own kitchens. According to Datassential, the most requested global flavors are Chinese, sushi and sashimi, Mexican, Italian, and Korean barbecue. Forty percent of guests told Datassential they were motivated by a specific craving, and 39 percent said their first priority was convenience.

At the same time, takeout and delivery show no signs of reversing their recent climb. Nearly 40 percent of consumers in a recent Datassential survey reported that they order food delivery at least once a week.

For restaurant operators, all of these facts and figures are hints—today’s ideal dish is one that is simple, satisfies a craving, and travels well.

“With the explosion of off-premise dining, even as we move out of the pandemic, it is so important for an operator to be able to seamlessly execute their menu regardless of where guests choose to eat,” says Chef Mark Slutzsky, director of culinary for North America at McCain Foods.

McCain’s Good to Go line of road-ready products, including SureCrisp™ fries, offers convenience and flavor for on- and off-premise dining. The Good to Go line also presents a familiar base for diners to experiment with bolder flavors that might be new to them. As a snack or appetizer with a smaller portion size, they’re a smaller commitment than an entree. 

“The great thing about our Good to Go line is not only is it suitable for delivery, but it lets the operator show off their chops to give consumers the flavor explorations they demand,” Slutzsky says. “Operators might try Mexican and Latin ideas with simple, bold sauces or topical seasonings—aji amarillo aioli or mole dips—or southeast Asian and Indian flavors like curries, five spice and lemongrass, ginger, or Thai red chilis tossed on fries or onion rings.”

Slutzsky recommends experimenting with simple topical seasonings or “one-plus” sauces, with equal or similar amounts of two different sauces combined for a flavor explosion. This is an easy way to achieve bold flavors with minimal labor back-of-house.

“Think Carolina barbecue ranch or Thai sweet chili mayo,” Slutzsky says. 

It’s also a good idea to consider different types of sustainable and functional packaging that let an operator create a dish that guests can finish to their liking with a few simple steps—whether they’re at home or in the dining room. Loaded fries are one example. Serving the toppings separately allows guests to customize their experience while helping preserve crispness. 

A few simple hacks—and a few well-chosen products that can serve double- or even triple-duty on the menu—can satisfy guests’ cravings for trending flavors without overexerting staff.

“With labor issues and supply chain demands, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to maintain consistency in a restaurant, but an arsenal of products that perform well in many different arenas can help combat that challenge,” Slutzsky says. “The McCain Good to Go line allows operators to put their signature spin on the products in a simple way, while knowing their dishes will stay consistent both on- and off-premise.”

To learn more about simple ways to put trends on the menu, visit the McCain Foods website.

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