By Anne Haerle
With the competition among restaurants for “stomach share” nearing Game of Thrones intensity levels, chefs are flexing their creative muscles even harder to capture their share of customer dollars. Between cheeky fusion concepts, turn-anything-into-a-taco, and Instagram eye candy menu items, restaurants are driving differentiation by seeing who can conquer their competitors through next-level creative food and dining experiences.
But pushing the edges of culinary creativity will only take you so far when it comes to attracting new guests and can actually force you over the cliff if you’re not careful. Innovation — the ability to harness new ideas and make them work for your restaurant — is creativity’s true partner. We chefs love to concoct edgy menu items that represent our creative drive on the plate but if that menu item doesn’t represent the restaurant’s brand, is too complex for the kitchen to pull off consistently, or doesn’t meet goals for food cost and margin, then it doesn’t belong on the menu. Period. That’s why menu innovation has to ride shotgun with creativity.
When the Synergy culinary team works in the test kitchen, we’re always pushing hard to develop menu items that balance broad appeal with breakthrough creativity. Take the burger for example. You might think there’s nothing new to discover there, especially considering all the competition in the burger space. By viewing the burger through the lens of both the restaurant concept and the guest, we tweak every aspect of the dish to deliver the very best eating experience that only our client’s brand can deliver. Every detail — from the thickness of the burger patty to the right amount of acidity in the sauce to the order of toppings and more — is meticulously crafted into a unique and craveable menu item.
While we’re creating that ultimate burger, we’re simultaneously envisioning how each ingredient and recipe will flow seamlessly through the kitchen. For instance, do we have the equipment, talent, and capacity to make our own burger buns? Is that important to our customers or do they care more about a house-ground fresh beef patty? Do we buy sliced Cheddar or does the restaurant brand demand that we slice all our cheese fresh daily? Should we serve our burger with sliced tomato year-round, or only when local heirloom tomatoes hit their peak? Once we make all these decisions based on our client’s vision for sourcing, quality, flavor, and value, we develop innovative and practical solutions that ensure the restaurant’s team can make and sell that burger to help meet sales and profit goals.
For us, the pairing of creativity and innovation allows us to develop those signature menu items that help define a great restaurant brand. If you see an opportunity for us to help, please get in touch.