If demography is indeed destiny (as so many pundits and prognosticators are fond of noting), then fast-food and fast-casual brands are bound to take on an even more pronounced Latin flavor in coming years.
If you’re reading this column in a bleary-eyed, early-morning fog, I recommend a piping-hot cup of coffee to kick-start your day. You might even make it a double.
Two years ago in this very space, when I last opined on beer and wine, I acknowledged that the very idea of selling alcohol remained remote for some concepts, and far-fetched for many. But the drive for higher margins, coupled with the fact that many adult customers simply see beer and wine as essential components of a good meal, has led to a sizable shift in the past 24 months. The question for many quick-serve chains now is not whether to serve beer and wine, but when and how.
Say this for modern quick-serve sandwiches: They’re certainly not standing still.
They’re jarred awake by an abrasive alarm clock, flustered by the challenge of selecting the right outfit in the dark, annoyed by the prospect of a heavily congested commute, and daunted by the prospect of another day’s slog through the salt mines. Is it any wonder the last thing your prospective customer wants to consider at 6, 7, or 8 a.m. is what to eat for breakfast, and where to buy it?
The topic I’ve been asked to address this month is kids’ dining.
Note the deliberate use of the word dining. Not kids’ eating, which would be purely utilitarian. Not kids’ scarfing, which can be a more accurate description of how young people approach mealtimes. No, today we’re talking about kids’ dining.
While attending the Research Chefs Association’s annual conference in San Antonio this past March, I wandered into the Esquire Tavern, a historic downtown institution with a cocktail menu capable of tempting even the most ardent teetotaler.
How is it possible, in a culture where clever entrepreneurs have built entire concepts around the likes of cake, cookies, ice cream, yogurt, doughnuts, cream puffs, strudel, custard, cupcakes, and even rice pudding, that fast food and fast-casual chains haven’t taken it upon themselves to rise up and achieve total dessert dominance?
Of the long and ever-growing list of foods, food ingredients, and food additives you never thought would return to the marketplace or earn a second look from consumers—think: diet soft drinks sweetened with saccharine and unpasteurized dairy products—one item in particular seemed like the least likely candidate for reputation rehabilitation: lard.
Growing up in the middle of the 20th century in California’s San Joaquin Valley, I was surrounded by citrus-growing communities with names like Orange Cove. These proud places supplied many of the navel and Valencia oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and tangerines people throughout the U.S. consumed in the course of any given year. We didn’t hanker for other citrus varieties in those days, primarily because no one knew other types existed.