What did consumers miss most about eating at restaurants during lockdown? Nearly 80% said it was the experiential element of dining out1. Many people also missed being able to eat something special that they couldn't cook themselves. Give customers what they’ve been waiting for: exciting recipes!
Your challenge is to figure out a way to offer creative dishes while sticking to a streamlined menu that uses simple, versatile ingredients (and will also hold up well during delivery). Remember – like you, your diners are on a budget: 38% of consumers say their post-pandemic financial situation will influence their habits2.
Our chefs are serving up four restaurant menu ideas featuring burgers to get you inspired.
Make a burger out of a classic recipe
Reinvent a simple and casual dish into an accessible gourmet experience. You can draw inspiration from classic recipes, like chicken parmigiana, to create surprising burgers with just a few simple ingredients – like Fior di Latte cheese on top of a breaded chicken patty, cooked in traditional Marinara sauce and Italian herbs.
Nothing is stopping you from serving a traditional dish and a spinoff recipe on the same menu! In fact, making 2 different items using similar ingredients means less food waste. Plus, according to Chef Beall, it’s an opportunity to turn a dish that doesn’t travel well into something suitable for delivery and take-out.
Remix a share-able snack into a burger
It’s always a fun experiment to take a popular snacking item – like nachos – and turn it into an elevated burger. Try using a full-bodied cheese like Pacific Rock to bring more “casual” toppings to a whole new level: for example, to dress a nacho-inspired burger, you might choose pickled hot peppers, crushed corn chips, and salsa mayo. Affordable, versatile ingredients feel infinitely more luxurious with the simple addition of specialty cheese.
As always, stretching your ingredients across different dishes is the way to go! Chef Brown advises you to transform these burger ingredients into a taco filling, a nacho topping, a plant-based version of the same burger … you name it. More options for your customers, no extra ingredients for you.
Turn gourmet meals into something more casual
It’s easy to transform “special occasion” dishes, like cheese fondue, into an everyday indulgence. Fondue is usually enjoyed in groups, and it’s safe to say that unless you sell it as a DIY meal kit, it’s not exactly adapted to off-premise consumption! Bring this well-loved meal (and others like it) to the masses as a burger instead!
For a dish like this, you can use robust veggies like mushrooms, which are low on cost and big on flavour. Dress them up with melted cheese (like delicate, sweet Emmental) and an herby marinade, and it’ll look and taste like a million bucks.
If you also serve lunch, Chef Brown suggests swapping burger buns for sandwich bread to create a mushroom fondue panini! One small change can create a whole other menu item that can be prepped in a flash.
Go big on flavour and texture combinations
One way to easily create interesting dishes is to combine textures and flavours. If you want to offer unique menu items that appeal to many different consumers, serve up something familiar – but with a twist.
For example, Brie cheese is often paired with sweet ingredients, like honey and pears. So, you could go one step further with Bleubry cheese, which marries blue cheese’s savoury sharpness with Brie cheese’s melty profile. You can try creating a “sweet and salty” burger by combining a beef patty with figs, arugula, caramelized onions, and of course, Bleubry cheese.
Want to avoid the risk of premium ingredients going bad? Chef Forte invites you to try alternatives – like dried figs.
Always keep delivery top-of-mind
In spring 2020, delivery accounted for 14% of all commercial food traffic – that’s 4 times more than the previous year3. When creating new menu items, you should always consider how they will hold up in transit, since it’s most likely here to stay.
If you’re worried about a burger falling apart, consider separating the toppings and providing instructions for diners to build their burger at home. This idea is inspired by meal kit services that are rising in popularity.
Streamlined menus don’t have to be boring! You can absolutely get creative and experiment with inventive combos while staying within budget and minimizing food waste – and specialty cheese is a great place to start.
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1 The NPD Group, COVID-19 Foodservice Sentiment Study Canada, May 2020
2 The NPD Group, COVID-19 Foodservice Sentiment Study Canada, May 2020
3 The NPD Group, COVID-19 Foodservice Sentiment Study Canada, May 2020