When you go to a restaurant, do you always try the trend of the moment, or do you stick to tried-and-true dishes? If you prefer to stick with the standards, you’re not alone: while trendy specials can be tempting, ultimately most restaurant sales are comprised of classic dishes like salads, burgers, and of course beer, wine, and cocktails.
Trends come and go, but some dishes remain ever in favor of just about any palate. Here, we will explore certain dishes that are trend-proof, but also versatile enough to be adapted to match the trends of the moment.
What classifies as a “trendy” menu item? So what’s the difference between a trendy menu item and a trend-proof one? In general, a trendy menu item might be the result of a food trend that has gone viral, like kale chips or acai bowls or bacon on everything. Usually, it is something that becomes very popular very fast, but can fade out of popularity just as quickly (remember when foams were all the rage?). A trend may have a short duration or a rather long one, but it follows a distinct arc of rising, maintaining, then fading from popularity.
Why trend-proof menu items matter: Trends come and go. They might bring in customers or rouse their curiosity as a special, but they don’t have staying power on a menu and as such, are best left on the specials board or as seasonal offerings. It’s the trend-proof items that form the backbone of your restaurant, offering reliable sales and reliable eating for a variety of palates.
10 Trend-Proof Menu Items. Here, we’ll showcase 10 trend-proof menu items, including what they are and why they’ll never go out of style.
Beer & wine: A solid beer and wine list is vital to strong restaurant sales. Many diners might be intimidated by fancy cocktails, but ordering a beer or a glass or bottle of wine is a bit more accessible. Be sure to offer a good variety of types of beer and wine, and specify any tasting notes on the menu.
Classic cocktails: It’s fun to have a flaming or otherwise wacky cocktail on the menu, but keep it on the specials list, and make sure you have a solid selection of the classic cocktails and mixed drinks, from gin and tonic to Manhattans and Martinis.
Salads: Salads never go out of style, and are appealing to healthy eaters and for those who want to share something healthy before their entree. While a mixed “house” salad is a great standard, you can get creative with your salads, too, offering seasonal or creative variations or even entree salads topped with chicken, fish, or beef. Be sure to have ramekins or small cups and be prepared to serve the dressing on the side upon request.
Soup: Along with salads, soup is a perennial strong seller in restaurants, whether the weather is warm or hot. There are plenty of advantages to offering soups. One is that they can be offered as specials, which means that they can be made with whatever ingredients are left over from nightly specials. They also keep beautifully, so you can make a big batch and freeze part of it to offer in the future.
Burgers: Burgers have been a restaurant favorite for years and years, and there is no sign of that changing in the near future. Interestingly, while burgers are in one way trend-proof, they are also a vehicle to showcase trends. For instance, when the “bacon on everything” trend hit, bacon could be put on or even in burgers; if goat cheese is of the moment, it’s easy to put it on a burger. They’re versatile in that way, which is perhaps part of their appeal and ongoing popularity.
Grilled foods: Grilled items are a healthy and flavorful option that appeals to a wide variety of diners. Whether it’s a light grilled fish, grilled chicken on a salad, or grilled vegetables served as a side, grilled foods are always a popular choice and a good menu item to offer.
Pizza: Like burgers, pizza is a restaurant menu item which simply doesn’t seem to ever go out of style. Like burgers, it can be used as a canvas to showcase trends: for instance, you could put local microgreens and a poached egg on top, or employ wild mushrooms and goat cheese. Pizza is also a food that can be made somewhat artisan or high-end or very simple, in a comfort food style.
Vegetarian entrees: Perhaps in the 90’s vegetarian entrees seemed trendy, but now it’s clear that they’re here to stay. Whether it’s for ethical or health reasons, plenty of people prefer to go veggie, either all or some of the time. Be sure to offer a healthy vegetarian entree (or two or three!) that is as well thought out as the rest of your menu, and not just an afterthought.
Rich desserts, light desserts. Desserts never go out of style. Be prepared for the extremes: always have a rich chocolate dessert or something like creamy tiramisu for the diners who really want to treat themselves. At the same time, always have a lighter dessert for those who want to indulge just a little–such as sorbet or a cake with fruit.
Coffee, tea, and after dinner drinks. Beverages such as coffee or tea make it more likely that people will linger for dessert and bring up the bill a little more. As a bonus, typically, people are willing to pay a little more for coffee or tea at a restaurant than they would be at a coffee shop.
Conclusion: While not all of these trend-proof items will work at every type of establishment, there’s usually a place for at least a few of these trend-proof items on a well balanced restaurant menu. While you can make quick money by offering a food trend, these slow but steady items will be a solid foundation for sales.
What item do you consider “trend-proof”?