Trend Watch: Less-than-healthy menu items still hold some sway

By Sophie Mir

Yes, plant-based eating is incredibly popular now, and yes, consumers are more concerned with their health than perhaps ever before. But that doesn’t mean people have given up indulging altogether. As it turns out, some produce is amenable to the same deep-fried, sauce-slathered treatment that plenty of meat gets, and Nanaimo bars are making comeback, as well (although they’re never really gone). Mac and cheese is seeing a moment, too, with premium, meaty add-ons making a meal of the comfort classic.

Plant-Based Pub Food

As the plant-based movement continues to gain momentum, operators are updating their appetizer menus to include veggie- and fruit-based bites, with deep-fried cauliflower florets and avocado pieces making big gains in particular. Both are good stand-ins for pub classics like wings and easily accommodate a variety of tangy sauces and dips, such as blue cheese dressing. They also lend an air of healthy indulgence — even if they skew a bit more toward indulgence.

Menu Examples

  • Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill offers Bombay Cauliflower Bites, served with cilantro dip
  • Pizza Pizza menued its limited-time Avocado Fries, featuring avocado slices deep fried in a crunchy breading
  • Earls Kitchen + Bar recently debuted Buffalo Cauliflower, served with ranch dip

Nanaimo Bar, Redux

Restaurants are putting a new spin on a Canadian classic, the Nanaimo bar, by featuring its flavours in creative desserts and shakes. With 32 per cent of consumers reporting that they enjoy many of the same desserts they ate as a child, according to Technomic’s 2018 Canadian Dessert Consumer Trend Report, these innovative reinventions of the Nanaimo bar are a nostalgic treat that also appeals to kids. It’s celebrated, craveable and easily pairs with add-ons like fudge, caramel and coffee.

Menu Examples

  • Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill spotlights its Deep Fried Nanaimo Cheesecake Rolls, featuring a Nanaimo bar with vanilla cheesecake rolled up in a crisp spring roll wrapper
  • McDonald’s recently debuted its Chocolate Nanaimo McFlurry, made with coconut graham crumbs, chocolate chips and cocoa all swirled into vanilla soft serve
  • Booster Juice is offerings the limited-time Nanaimo Bar FroCho, in celebration of Canada Day

Mac, Cheese and Meat

With over 68 per cent of consumers stating that they would be more likely to buy foods and beverages that are high in protein, and 27 per cent expressing that they would be willing to pay more for it, according to Technomic’s 2018 Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, operators are enriching classic macaroni and cheese with the addition of various meats to offer an energy-fuelled twist to a favourite dish. Heavy and light proteins are both included in the trend, with beef, chorizo, bacon, lobster and shrimp all showing up on menus. Another comfort classic, the Caesar salad, is a common side to it.

Menu Examples

  • Ricky’s All Day Grill recently menued Chorizo Mac N’ Cheese, featuring macaroni noodles in a rich cheese sauce mixed with crumbled chorizo sausage
  • Olive Garden offered Lobster Shrimp Mac and Cheese, made with lobster, shrimp and rigatoni pasta in a creamy seafood Alfredo sauce
  • Montana’s BBQ & Bar recently introduced the Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese

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