Incorporating new influences into a menu helps chefs to engage customers and elevate offerings.

Although the dynamics of eating out continue to shift and evolve due to pressures from younger demographics and the influence of review sites and social media, one thing remains very much the same: guests dine at restaurants for entertainment purposes. In addition to great food and service, customers increasingly want to be engaged with their food—whether that means trying a new dish for the first time, learning about where their food came from, having a conversation directly with the chef, or customizing their order with different options from the menu.

“The biggest trend in food right now is experimentation,” says Scott Rosenberg, director of marketing and customer service for Unibake. “If you look at the craft movement—craft beer or craft foods—its success so far has been driven by improving the quality of restaurant offerings.”

The focus on creative, flavorful dishes has resulted in chefs across the country menuing a range of ingredients from global influences including German, Italian, Thai, and Lebanese cuisines, and incorporating those flavors into familiar offerings, such as burgers.

“Chefs are embracing the burger as this fun and exciting medium with which to showcase their creativity and introduce global cuisines,” Rosenberg says. “For example, I recently had dinner at a ramen-themed restaurant where the chef topped a pork patty with traditional American cheese and house-made condiments to create a unique, Japanese-influenced dish.”

By incorporating a very familiar and comforting food like the burger with the ethnic foods trend, chefs can introduce customers to new flavors and engage them at a high level with various options. For example, Middle Eastern ingredients such as lamb, mint, and labnah lend themselves very well to a burger and elevate a typically-predictable dish to something many guests might not have tried before. 

And there are other ways to incorporate the ethnic foods trend and add a global twist to the familiar burger, as well—French-style brioche buns, German pretzel buns, or Italian ciabatta buns can provide new flavors and textures to a dish, which will further entice customers, without breaking the bank. Providing customers with the option to add globally-inspired ingredients can help to boost profitability, while meeting guest expectations and staying under budget.

“There’s pressure on chefs to keep things fresh and interesting, and to continually innovate their menus,” Rosenberg says. “Successful chefs are looking for quality.”

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