Some people would argue that the local cuisine is the most memorable part of the region it represents. It’s increasingly easy to associate specific local specialties with the area in which they originated. I say Po’ Boy, you say…NOLA. I say Cheesesteak, you say…Philly. Right?
Interest in regional flavors in the U.S. has grown exponentially, as cooking shows travel the not-so-beaten paths to showcase unique, traditional flavors. According to Ventura Foods, restaurant operators are increasingly highlighting specific U.S. regions and states in the description of traditional, American menu offerings. Mustard-based North Carolina sauce, Alabama white sauce, and Appalachian chow-chow are just a few examples of the regional specialties seen on today’s menus.
Operators are pushing these as accompaniments to the standard traditional fare—providing consumers with a familiar palate on which to experiment with new flavors. Try your own creations by adding uniquely regional flavors atop common, everyday dishes.
Another trend confirmed by Ventura Foods, is the rise of ethnic flavors. According to Food Dive, a third of people eat ethnic food at least once a week, and 32% are willing to pay extra for authentic ethnic fare.
And operators are seizing the opportunity to meet this demand! Experimenting with spicy flavors like Korean Gochujang (think Sriracha, but much more savory) and Asian island ingredients such as banana ketchup (like regular ketchup, but sweeter). Indian Kedgeree, a fish/rice curry, has become increasingly popular in the independent market, while Filipino Lumpia, a thinner, Filipino version of the egg roll, is making strides in chain restaurants.
Consumers’ love for flavorful food is only matched by their love for their cell phones. Diners are more apt to pick up their phone before their fork! Sharing cultural experiences, new flavors and dining experiences is just a click and a post away.
Americans no longer have to jump on a plane to experience an abundance of cuisines and flavors. One glance at their newsfeed and they will likely find themselves transported to a patchwork of cities and countries in just a matter of seconds!
So while we may not have the opportunity to travel as often as we like (who in the restaurant business does?), take advantage of these growing, flavorful trends and take your guests on a taste bud vacation!