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Scintillating Side Dishes

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By Jay Stefans

March 14, 2012

Pull out your side dish recipes and dust off the french fry cutter: though food industry professionals often overlook them, side dishes are a fantastic way to increase your sales. Side dish menu options are typically not costly to create and require only simple supplies, which means that they offer a sizeable profit without having a great effect on your prices. More nutritious menu items and ethnic or regional choices are two of this year’s biggest restaurant industry trends.

Rice Side Dishes
Impress your clientele with easy but elegant options. Quinoa remains one of the most popular and healthiest grain side dishes available. Personalize your restaurant’s version with a little bit of experimentation. Try adding different types of nuts, bean sprouts, or even fruit to your quinoa recipes. Remember traditional rice side dishes, too. Long-grain, brown, red, and wild varieties of rice are especially trendy this year. Another trend that continues to grow consists of offering a plethora of ethnic choices. If your restaurant serves Italian food or is in an Italian neighborhood, your clients will enjoy side dishes that include fresh tomatoes and olives. If your customers appreciate Latin cuisine, consider spicy rice dishes served with beans.

Vegetable Side Dishes
Packing your side dish menu with vegetable options makes more sense than ever as the public leans increasingly towards healthful eating. Roast your veggies and use non-traditional combinations to entice customers. Attention-getting colors will give dishes added appeal. Serve bright, lively colors such as those of a roasted bell pepper salad. French fries are one standard you must keep on the menu – this perennial customer favorite provides a perfect opportunity for culinary creativity. Serve various options, such as spicy fries, sweet potato fries, and fries of different sizes and shapes. Your restaurant equipment, as always, is essential. Use a professional French fry cutter for the standard, always favorite, version of fries. Augment your sales by dedicating a menu section to salads, fries, and other dry side dishes. Include healthy sauces such as honey-mustard and pesto, giving clients with dietary restrictions an equal chance for a special experience.

As always, your customers are the best source of information regarding what will sell. Place a suggestion box or comment cards with a note specifically asking what types of side dishes customers would order if they saw them on your menu. Clients will be more likely to buy and recommend to their friends menu items that they themselves suggested. This strategy, coupled with a generous helping of your own creative touches, is sure to boost your sales and your customers’ satisfaction.

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Posted by Brian Carrick on 3/18/12 at 8:42 AM EST

It used to be chefs opened canned vegetables, made rice pilaff night after night, the same old potatoes, once in awhile a pasta dish or two. Now, the side dishes are as important as the main entree if not more so and many hours of labor, study, and networking go on in order to place the best there are on the menu nightly. Thanks for your excellent article, it is appreciated! Chef Brian Carrick, 40+ year foodservice career, worked in California, Hawaii, and Washington State and publishes the Elemental News of the Day online.

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