Fast Casual Restaurant Trend Alert: Potatoes

Friday, November 15th, 2013

We like to keep an eye on trends in the fast casual segment here at ShortOrder, and recently we spotted one that’s particularly a-peel-ing. Apparently potatoes are what’s hot—so to speak—in fryers across the nation. Because the potato is a versatile vegetable (boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew), there are many possibilities when it comes to catering to customers in need of a creative spud.

The potato trend is actually one that’s resurfacing. It was a big deal back in about 2008, when it seemed that every oven in a quick service restaurant was making room for potatoes and sweet potatoes. Now, a recent twist has found a place in the fast casual industry, and a few places, like Potatopia, have even made the potato the star of a single-item menu. Not unlike the fast casual personal pizza trend, the potato trend focus seems to be mostly on variety, customization, and toppings.

So how can you hop on the potato trend bandwagon?

Start by exploring all your potato possibilities. First, the things you can do to the actual potato: bake, boil, mash, twice-bake, thrice-bake, pancake, smash, sauté, fry, pie, and chip are just a few that come to mind. When you’re equipped with the right restaurant equipment, there is no limit to the number of ways you can cook a potato.

Next, the art of dressing the potato. Old standbys like cheese, sour cream, and butter are, of course, a good idea, but you can easily branch out to let customers personalize their potatoes with sauces, meats, vegetables, and more.

Then make sure you’ve got the right equipment. The kitchen at Potatopia, for example, houses a double-decker convection oven, fryers, and a hybrid convection-microwave oven. Gather up a variety of restaurant equipment, and make sure you get high-quality equipment like Gen2 fryers. If your menu is based around a single item, you don’t want your main ingredient to be a lackluster part of the dish.

Has your fast casual eatery capitalized on the potato trend? What kinds of restaurant equipment and fryers have you used? Let us know by connecting with ShortOrder on Twitter and Facebook!

 

How to Update Your Drinks Menu Using Ice Machines and More

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Here at What’s Cooking, we’ve been focusing lately on the benefits of our fantastic ice machines. This week, however, we would like to talk about how you can put them to good use. We are talking, of course, about updating your drinks menu. Why is it important to update your drinks menu? It helps keep your restaurant on the map and distinguishes it from the rest. Whether you choose to add a few signature drinks or mix up the entire menu altogether, changing your drinks menu can be very good for business. Read on for ShortOrder’s tips on how best to use ice machines and more to make the most of your beverages.

How to Update Your Drinks Menu

Get creative with your menu change.  Make some signature drinks, see what is popular at other restaurants, incorporate new beverages on the market into your menu… the possibilities are endless. If you don’t want to commit to long-term change, consider have a special drink of the week. You won’t have to invest in new ingredients permanently, but you will be able to keep your menu fresh and interesting, ensuring that newcomers are drawn in and regulars keep coming back.

Advertise Your Drinks Menu

It is not only important that you update your menu; you need to advertise it. The idea is simple: make it easy for customers to see and select a new drink. Advertise your new menu on your restaurant’s website and social media outlets, include special inserts in your full menus, or add stand-up drink menus to each table. Also add your business to websites like BeerMenus and Taplister, which allow customers to search for craft beer near their location. Advertising on these sites also allows customers to find your restaurant while on the go. Customers search most often on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday between 1 and 9 PM, so be sure that your beer lists are up-to-date at those times.

Alcohol Menu

Consider stocking local beers, wines, and spirits on your new drinks menu. In the “What’s Hot in 2013 Alcohol Survey” by the National Restaurant Association, nearly half of the top 20 trends involved a demand for locally-produced alcohol. Onsite barrel-aged drinks was the #1 predicted trend, while micro-distilled/artisan liquor, locally-produced spirits, regional signature cocktails, locally-produced beer, craft beer, and signature cocktails all made the list as well. Additionally, going local can be a great way to support local businesses and create a niche for your own business. Put those ice machines to good use and come up with some signature cocktails. Obviously the more unique the cocktail the better, but a signature cocktail can also be as simple as putting a twist on a familiar drink and giving it a name that is specific to your restaurant.

Coffee and Tea Menu

You can also mix up your coffee and tea menu! In another survey of 2013 trends by the National Restaurant Association, specialty iced tea and organic coffee ranked among the top 5 beverage trends. Try a coffee combined with a special syrup, flavored milk, or even spiced tea. Offer it hot or use your ice machines to serve it up over ice. We recommend dice-sized cubes from your ice machines for cold coffee and tea drinks.

Ice Machines and More

For more information about ice machines that can help your business thrive, check out ShortOrder’s lines of Manitowoc ice machines and Scotsman ice machines. You can also explore more of our blog and learn about the favorite drinks of famous authors, how to choose ice machines for your business, how to save energy with your ice machines, and much more.

Tap into 2013 Toasted Breads Trend with Commercial Toasters

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

2013 has been proclaimed the Year of the Toasted Breads!  Why, you may ask?  Part of the upswing the popularity of toasted breads (and consequently, commercial toasters) has to do with a rising popularity in snacks and tapas featured more prominently on menus.  Stemming from a desire to appeal to a restaurant-going population that wishes to remain economical when dining out, more restaurants have begun incorporating “bar food”, snacks, and tapas into their all-day menus, often for prices under $5.

So, what kinds of dishes incorporate toasted bread that you can make using commercial toasters?  A whole variety, as it turns out.  You are hardly limited to a basic slice of toast.  There are toasted bread samplers, which allow you to utilize your commercial toasters and explore the different textures and tastes of various breads while pairing them with different spreads or toppings.  Similarly, the “bread board” is gaining popularity as well, which includes not only toasted sliced breads, but also rolls and crostinis as well.  These may be offered as appetizers or as bar food-style snacks to share.

As with any trend, the important thing to do when tapping into a new food style is to separate your dishes from the growing fad by utilizing unique flavors and new ideas.  The beauty of the toasted bread sampler is that it allows a restaurant to put its own spin on the dish, customizing it to the overall theme of the restaurant’s food.  The toppings you choose may be as tame and sweet as a flavorful house-made jam or spiced butter, or as filling and savory as slices of beef tartare or cured salmon.  However you choose to use your commercial toasters to make toasted breads this year, be sure that you can contribute something new to the trend.  Furthermore, it may be wise to change out the ingredients you pair with your breads from your commercial toasters from time to time.  This variety will bring patrons back to try your new menu items, turning a fad into an innovation for your restaurant.

To find the right commercial toasters for your restaurant’s needs, check out ShortOrder’s restaurant equipment today and begin experimenting with toasted breads in your own commercial toasters!

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