Color, texture, flavor and nutrition. Salad delivers it all in spades. When you incorporate a satiating protein with it, this profit-generating meal-in-a-bowl commands attention. Here are three ways to build craveable salads that will deliver.
Incorporate trending flavors and textures
While BBQ chicken, Caesar, Southwest and Fajita salads are perennially popular, regional and global flavor profiles also easily supply a trendy theme to drive the ingredients. For example, an Asian Chicken Salad carries the theme with such ingredients as red cabbage, mandarin oranges, scallions and wonton strips. The dressing seals the theme with the combo of ginger, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. A dash of Sriracha adds a spicy kick. Other popular regional salads are Mexican with chicken thigh, lime crema and corn and Mediterranean style with fresh lemon and herbs, says Mike Buononato, chef and Senior Vice President for Creative Food Solutions. Beyond Sriracha, bring on the spice with currently popular guajillo pepper, spicy honey, spicy mayo or Nashville hot sauces.
Texture works hand in hand with flavor to build craveability. “Texture is a great way to distinguish yourself from the masses,” Buononato says. “Fried chicken is very popular on salads, and having a flavorful, crunchy exterior is crucial.” He also notices a rise in crunchy salad ingredients such as crushed, fried onions, buttery crackers and common breakfast cereals. Panera Bread deftly includes the word crunch in its Citrus Asian Crunch Salad with Chicken. Among the ingredients is chicken thigh meat with the crunch derived from crispy carrot noodles. The salad delivers the Asian theme with tangerine soy ginger dressing in addition to a teriyaki drizzle.
Attract health-minded consumers
Another way to make salads the stars on your menu is to capitalize on the nutrition-forward salad appeal with superfood ingredients, a trend that is well underway. Some 40% of consumers say they plan to increase their consumption of superfoods or functional foods in the next year.1 Perhaps this is the reason such superfoods as blueberries, quinoa, kale, beets, almonds, edamame and chickpeas have reached proliferation status as salad ingredients among chain restaurants.2 Combining poultry with fruit is an easy way to incorporate superfoods, such as this Warm Citrus Salad.
Additionally, the color quotient of these and other ingredients contribute to the visual enticement and health halo of the dish, including the dressing. Green Goddess is an example of a dressing that works on many levels, according to Buononato. “Because this is a fairly neutral and flavor-popping dressing with an amazing hue, it pairs well with darn near anything,” he says. “The fresh, herby bright flavor profile is a classic from yesteryear that’s found new popularity.” For example, Donatos Pizza recently added a Green Goddess Chicken Salad to the menu with chicken breast, hardwood smoked bacon, pepper jack cheese, Roma tomatoes and green peppers.
Drive profits with premium claims
Beyond craveability, you can further drive sales by aligning with premium claims consumers care about. With regards to your salad proteins, purchase and promote chicken and turkey with all-vegetarian fed, organic and no antibiotics ever claims that matter to consumers.
Some 68% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase chicken with clean attributes at restaurants,3 while 75% say they are willing to pay more for antibiotic-free meat.4 Your restaurant’s commitment to these ideals posted to your website is just the first step. For example, in the Food Beliefs section of its website, Panera Bread describes its commitment to selecting clean, fresh ingredients and animal welfare. But it takes its message a step further on the menu. It describes its BBQ Chicken Salad as chicken raised without antibiotics, romaine, black bean and corn salsa and BBQ ranch dressing topped with frizzled onions and apple cider vinegar BBQ sauce.
When it comes to ease and speed in preparing protein-packed, flavor-forward salads, get a leg up by purchasing sustainably produced fully cooked chicken or turkey.
PERDUE® No Antibiotics Ever, PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® and KINGS DELIGHT® birds receive no antibiotics ever and are fed a 100% vegetarian fed diet with absolutely no animal by-products. Learn more about why we’re Hungry For Better.
- “Health: What Does it Mean Today,” FoodBytes, Datassential, Volume 94, Datassential FoodBytes 2022 report
- “Salad Ingredients, Menu Adoption Cycle,” Datassential, March 2022, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Et4t5b8S9vd0aHcGMdiIWl2QAPsKVz40/view?usp=sharing
- Zogby, John, “Antibiotic-Free Labels Are Important To Two-Thirds Of Americans When Buying Meat — And Data To Back-Up Claims Is Paramount, A New Poll Shows,” Forbes, Feb. 11, 2021, https://bit.ly/378qFXW
- “Center of the Plate Poultry Consumer Trend Report, 2021,” Technomic, https://store.technomic.com/products/2019-center-of-the-plate-poultry-consumer-trend-report