Funnybones Foodservice development chef Tom Styman-Heighton tells us about the latest food trends set to make their mark on the UK foodservice industry this summer, including the influence of foreign foods, and offers tips on how operators can get the most out of the warmer month
Without a doubt, we’re seeing more of the Americas – Central and South America, particularly Brazil. Meat-oriented, Brazilian-style restaurants have already begun popping up across the country and are growing in popularity. And whilst Brazilian food didn’t quite take off as expected during the World Cup, the Rio Olympics this summer are set to put the cuisine back on the menu.
Cajun and creole cookery are also coming through a little more, with a number of our customers looking to add dishes such as jambalaya and gumbo to their menus. Sides have also proved a big hit. Cornbread is a great alternative to fries or a baked potato – it’s a hugely versatile product that appeals to the UK palate and works well with so many dishes.
When it comes to Mexican cuisine, there’s a real shift away from generic dishes towards more local, authentic flavours from various parts of the country – from the already popular dish ‘arrachera’ (fajitas) from the north, to the distinctive salsas of the south (often made with tropical fruits from the region, such as tamarind, plums and avocados) and the vibrant street-food scene prevalent in central Mexico.
And finally, although it’s not a new trend, foodservice operators simply cannot ignore the significance of gluten-free – I believe that it will soon be expected on every menu, much like vegetarian dishes. However, there’s now a real expectation of quality, so substandard alternatives just won’t cut it. Dishes need to be on par with the quality and taste of an operator’s regular menu.
Thankfully, the foodservice industry has responded well to this demand, with Funnybones no exception. For us, the product must first taste great and be manufactured to our usual high standard – and we are proud to have been able to develop gluten-free products that meet these criteria.
As the days get longer and temperatures start to rise, people tend to relax a little more. The summer season brings with it a more casual, laid back and social approach to dining out that can have a real impact on people’s menu choices. It’s therefore paramount that operators look at adapting their existing menu to suit and think about how they can incorporate some of the latest trends into their summer offering.
Whilst Brazilian-style meats are sure to go down a treat – especially in the build up to and during the Olympics – there are also lots of great cooking sauces available. Homely sauces that emulate Brazilian households are a great choice paired with everything from fish and chicken to vegetables, and can be a great way of introducing diners to the cuisine. Why not offer a selection as small plates or tapas-style dishes?
Mexican foods are also great for summer dining, with tacos in particular seen as a light, summery alternative to perhaps a burrito or fajita. Popular with both adults and kids, they are crunchy, messy and great fun to eat, with all the various fillings, toppings and accompaniments a great way to upsell and add value to what is essentially a simple dish.
The Olympics also offer a chance to mix up firm menu favourites such as burgers, charging a premium price for meats from specific areas. Wagyu beef burgers (from Australian-certified Wagyu cattle) and Iberico pork burgers (made from meat sourced from Iberian black-leg pigs and perceived as the best pork in the world) are both great examples of this.
There are also huge opportunities for selling in sharing platters and small plates – perfect for people to graze on with friends at any time of day. Themed platters, such as ‘Brazilian’, ‘Mexican’ or ‘American’, work well, as do mixed platters with foods from across the world.
It’s important to note that dishes such as these can help increase spend per head. Rather than a couple ordering a specific starter costing £5.95 each, they could have three small plates as a starter, each plate costing £3.95.
There’s nothing wrong with old ideas. Putting a fresh spin on classic dishes can really showcase an operator’s creativity and flair. Whether it’s going retro with a prawn cocktail but serving it hot and with new and interesting flavours – a coconut crumb served with a mango salsa, perhaps? – or recreating old favourites, such as black forest gâteau using warm melting chocolate cake and hot kirsch cherries, bringing a sense of nostalgia to your offering can add value.
As a specialist wholesaler, Funnybones works tirelessly to identify trends as they emerge – selecting those with real opportunities to work in the UK market and bringing them here first.
We regularly visit trade shows such as the National Restaurant Association in Chicago, the Fancy Food show in New York and the Western Food Show in LA, looking closely at new trends and innovation. A large part of this means visits to local independent eateries to get as much first-hand knowledge as possible to see how the trends on display at the trade shows play out as part of an authentic dining experience.
Building relationships with suppliers is also key to developing our authentic offering – particularly when it comes to more specialist products produced in the US and Mexico. The sheer size of the foodservice market over there means demand is often high even for relatively niche products – meaning suppliers can offer us a unique product range not always possible to replicate in the UK.