Sides can be just as important as a main dish on your menu. Innovative and exciting, they provide an important and vital additional revenue stream. During the busy festive season, side dishes can really boost profits and thanks to new trends in the frozen vegetable category, there are plenty of luxury choices. Take Stock shows how you can make the most of sides this season.
Customers quickly become bored with the traditional ‘turkey with all the trimmings’ offering. This puts caterers under a great deal of pressure – not only to serve quality food in high volume with limited waste,but also to keep menus fresh and unique in order to stay ahead of the competition. Quick to serve with no waste, high-quality frozen side dishes can become hero products during the festive period – and may be a good way to start shaking up menus all year round.
Swapping roast potatoes for mash, marinated potatoes or gratins or adding loaded potato skins or honey-glazed parsnips can effortlessly liven up your menu and make everyday veg into a new and exciting dish. “Offering something that little bit special will stand out on a Christmas menu, and help justify a premium price,” explains Mohammed Essa, general manager UK & Ireland, Aviko. “Adding quality touches such as our new Mini Gratins with Parsnip & Jerusalem Artichoke or Bubble & Squeak Rounds open up a wider variety of choice and also commands a much higher price point.” Serving a range of innovative and multiple sides will give your menu an opportunity to stand out in the market as well as create a better overall menu margin. Simply combining a piece of fish or chicken with new ‘trendy’ sides such as sweet potato wedges or a bulgur wheat pilaf will create a dish that appeals to diners who are keen to try new flavours – and position your restaurant as fresh, interesting and customer focused.
Save time and cut waste
Increased preparation time and potential wastage that comes with carrying a selection of sides can add to costs and some outlets simply don’t have the time, skills or equipment required to prepare innovative side dishes from scratch. This is where frozen can be your perfect partner. Frozen sides are pre–portioned, have a long shelf life, can be heated from frozen and served straight away to save preparation time and cut waste.
Keep it healthy
Due to the abundance of food consumed during the Christmas and New Year period, some customers want lighter, healthier sides. Instead of the ubiquitous chip, why not combine vegetables, potatoes, rice and pasta as an option? Steamed vegetables are quick and easy to cook in the microwave, without any prep time, and are available in sharing bowls and individual bags. Low GI veg options like spiced lentils or bean stew are a good alternative to more traditional carbohydrates.
Spread the word
Be sure to sell your exciting new sides. Advertise the offer with a special sides board and make sure staff are prepped and encouraged to upsell the ‘sides of the day’. If you make your sides innovative and exciting customers will be tempted to order.
Price is right
Make sure you price your sides accordingly. If you want customers to try new flavours but not feel disappointed with the bill at the end of the meal, why not offer deals on several sides that can be shared by the table. This way, a customer who is reluctant to have a solo side will be more tempted; bringing in revenue you may have previously lost out on.