Turn your focus to desserts

May 30, 2011

So what’s the best part of a restaurant menu? Going along with what Mom used to recite, “you have to eat all your vegetables before you get dessert” —  dessert truly is the crowd-pleaser and can be a profit-center if you stay attuned to customer tastes and changing trends.

We all scream for ice cream

A recent Mintel consumer survey (Mintel’s Menu Insights) found most respondents stated ice cream/frozen yogurt as their preferred dessert and baked goods like cake, pie, and cookies came next as “sometimes” preferred.  As ice cream leads as the top choices for consumers, restaurants have responded to its popularity by being the top-offered desserts on restaurant menus. Ice cream, chocolate cake, pie, cheesecake and sundae rank behind ice cream.

Some innovations in ice cream have been twists on flavors like the addition/infusion of herbs (think lavender) and spices. Additionally, shakes offer a new opportunity for restaurants to profit.  Take Hardee’s, who had recently offered Strawberry Banana Smoothie Shake (possibly catering towards breakfast) and also hand-scooped ice-cream malts and shakes (similar shakes also served at Jack in the Box and Sonic).

Small Bites

Bite-sized desserts are gaining popularity as a spin-off of the small plate craze. Mini bites allow people to indulge but feel less-guilty. Cupcakes? Although naturally small, cupcake balls (bite-sized cake balls sometimes served on lollipop sticks) are the newest craze.

Mimi’s Cafe actually offers “Petite Treats,” one trio of mini-desserts includes bread pudding, fresh apple cinnamon crisp, and triple chocolate brownie.

Cake – the classic dessert

Cake still proves as a classic favorite for desserts. Putting a new spin cakes (much like the small cake-balls) is what many restaurants are doing now to attract guests’ taste buds. For example Friendly’s has introduced molten-lava-like cakes, filled with hot fudge and served with ice cream. Cookies and brownies are also increasingly appearing on restaurants’ menus tapping into guests love for warm, baked, chocolaty goodness.