Menu Innovations | March 2014 | By Barney Wolf

Smooth Transition

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Quick service restaurants including Greek concepts offer fresh yogurt options.
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The salad restaurant wanted to keep its healthy theme for breakfast, so “yogurt came to mind,” Simonian says. He chose Greek yogurt and set about developing the most nutritionally balanced product possible.

The yogurt is served as one or two 3-ounce scoops, each of which has only 100 calories. Toppings include 14 fresh seasonal fruits, dark chocolate, granola, nuts, raisins, and honey.

Pret a Manger, a London-based brand with more than 50 U.S. locations in four cities, has considered its parfaits—called “yogurt pots”—mainly as breakfast items, although they are served all day. “We’ve had them for many years in the United Kingdom,” says Olly Smith, vice president of food for the international company.

There are three core yogurt pots that feature Greek yogurt: blueberry and granola; banana, honey, and toasted almonds; and the Little Cup of Goodness, which includes apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and granola. There’s also at least one seasonal offering.

“We will play around with flavors, but we have to keep the core ones for our customers, because they expect them,” Smith says. An 8-ounce pot is around 300 calories.

Jamba Juice has three freshly made breakfast parfaits, called Toppers, and five types of Wellness Bowls featuring Greek yogurt. The bowls, such as Mango Peach and Apple 'n Kale, contain two or more servings of fruit or vegetables.

“We think the wellness bowl is a platform we can grow,” Lee says. “People seem to enjoy the big, bold flavor of Greek yogurt, and this is really tangy.”

Juice It Up! serves smoothies and juices for breakfast, but the Irvine, California–based company is testing handcrafted yogurt parfaits in some of its 80-plus locations.

“Depending on the results, I would see us launching them systemwide by the end of the first quarter,” says Noah Burgess, product development specialist for the chain. “We are looking for a healthier grab-and-go option for customers, or to pair with one of the raw juices. A parfait in the morning with juice makes a complete meal.”

The yogurt and Greek yogurt parfaits at Juice It Up! are likely to have popular fruit flavors, such as blueberry and strawberry, along with banana, honey, and organic granola.

Pinkberry looks at its yogurt bar more as a snack opportunity. When the company introduced its Greek yogurt, dubbed “Pinkberrygreek,” a year ago, that became the heart of its parfaits, with granolas, fresh seasonal fruits, and other sweeteners, Graves says. The Greek yogurt provides a light and refreshing flavor with a “clean finish that doesn’t leave a milky, dairy aftertaste,” the CEO adds.

Yogurt also has found a place in other menu items at limited-service restaurants. The product is used traditionally in Mediterranean recipes, so it’s no surprise that yogurt is the foundation for the Dill, Yogurt, and Cucumber sauce at Roti Mediterranean Grill. It’s the chain’s take on classic tzatziki sauce.

“It has a refreshing, almost cooling effect with the spicy and flavorful food,” says Frederik Jensen, creative chef at the Chicago-based company. “It is something that is low in calories, has fewer fats, and brings a great flavor.”

Roti is also testing yogurt to replace some mayonnaise in its garlic sauce. “We don’t want to sacrifice flavor and texture,” Jensen says. “We’re looking to find the right balance.”

Yogurt is a base ingredient in all of McDonald’s McWrap sauces, is part of Corner Bakery’s Chilled Swiss Oatmeal, and is a muffin and bread ingredient at several concepts. The dairy product is also an ingredient in dressings at some restaurants.

Pret a Manger is looking to use yogurt’s tanginess in several of its soup recipes, Smith says. It’s also an ingredient in the chain's tzatziki sauce in the Greek Falafel and Wild Salmon wraps.

Mixing it with mayonnaise for some dressings “allows you to achieve the best of both worlds,” Smith says. “You can have the taste of mayonnaise, but the texture is more creamy and luscious.”

The company also is using yogurt in one of its new single-serve Snack Pack offerings: the Greek Yogurt Coated Pretzel. “It is sweeter than salty, and very delicious,” he says.

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