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Creating a signature salad with cheese

In a market dominated by delivery and take-out, salads can become a menu superstar: these high-margin items travel well, are easy to make, and use many of the same ingredients across different recipes on your menu.

Chef Chris Beall

To keep clients hooked, you’ll need to think up some unique “signature salad” recipes. We asked Chef Beall for some inspiration for tossing up salads with cheese – here are some of his top ideas, plus some expert tips!


Salads: the perfect dish for today’s challenges

Not only do consumers love getting their health fix with salad, but they also love posting beautiful dishes on social media (a benefit you can capitalize on as well!). According to Technomic, 58% of consumers turn to aesthetically pleasing meals to put themselves in a better mood, and 31% order healthier items more frequently than they did before the pandemic1.

On the restaurant side, salads are quick to put together and a natural fit for grab-and-go menus. According to Chef Beall, they can also yield impressive margins, especially if you use a couple of key premium ingredients. Some restaurants even call some salads “bowls” to elevate their profile.

Since many salads use similar ingredients, they can help reduce waste, limit costs, and streamline your preparation. Use the same handful of base ingredients, then mix things up with different cheeses, proteins, and dressings. Take your efficiency one step further by drawing inspiration from your sandwich and burger menu – just swap the breads and patties for a base of leafy greens, and use all the same fillings as toppings!

Speaking of versatility, salads are a very flexible dish. Serving them as a side or entrée is as easy as changing the portion size or adding/removing a key ingredient (like protein). 

How to develop a winning signature salad 

According to Chef Beall, checking these five boxes will create the perfect signature salad. 

Make it unique. Your salad should be creative and unique to your restaurant. Feel free to think outside the box and use ingredients that aren’t usually found in salad.

Make it crave-able. When you create a recipe that no other restaurant has, customers will always think of you when they’re craving that signature flavour.

Make it on-brand. Your salad should fit right in with your restaurant’s identity and the rest of your menu.

Use premium ingredients. Specialty cheeses are the ultimate premium ingredients for salad: they’re the perfect punch, and since salad uses so many familiar ingredients, it’s a great dish for experimenting with more adventurous cheeses.

Give it a great name. Put your marketing hat on and find a cute, funny, or creative name that will grab people’s attention.

What types of cheeses make a signature salad stand out?

Cheese adds serious value to salad in the form of protein, texture, flavour, and uniqueness. Plus, since most cheeses are white, there’s a visual element as well! Dairy items like sour cream can also do the trick, either as a topping or a dressing ingredient

Using cheese in salad is all about balance: stronger cheeses call for bolder ingredients, and milder cheeses should be paired with mild ingredients. It’s similar to creating wine or beer pairings: if you combine a strong flavour with a mild flavour, you’ll lose the mild. Match the intensity levels so they complement each other instead of drowning each other out.

As a rule of thumb, lighter flavours are better for summer salads, while autumn and winter need bolder elements like grilled vegetables or meat. Here’s how cheese fits into the mix!

  • Goat cheese: Goat cheese in salad serves up top-tier flavour and creaminess. This is Chef Beall’s number one cheese for salads, especially soft fresh goat cheese that can be crumbled on top, served in slices, or fried.
  • Fresh Mozzarella cheese: These cheeses are great for Italian-inspired salads, like a remixed caprese that swaps tomatoes for beets (hint: this would make a great signature dish). Fior di Latte and Bocconcini cheeses are great options here: their mild profile works well with lean proteins, tomatoes, herbs, and other subtle ingredients.
  • Feta cheese: You can’t go wrong with the classic Greek feta cheese salad, featuring ingredients like olives, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Keep exploring feta cheese’s saltiness and texture by pairing it with other bright flavours like apples, mint, and red onions.
  • Haloumi cheese: Haloumi cheese has a fun texture, plus it can be grilled, fried, or pan-seared. Double down on creativity by frying it to create unique croutons!

Signature salads are about uniqueness, premium ingredients, and fun combinations. There’s never been a better time to add this high-margin delivery-friendly item to your menu!

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1 Technomic Canadian May 2020 Omnibus consumer survey data

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