Chef Robert LeSage explains why restaurants should consider adding bowls to their menus

Sponsored by Haliburton International Foods.

With an increasing number of consumers seeking nutritious options in all dayparts, creating something rich in flavor can be a challenge for chefs. For quick-service restaurants looking to appeal to the health-conscious crowd, bowl meals are a good option. 

Bowls have appeared on menus for years, but have more recently gone mainstream, with brands like McDonald’s and Panera getting in on the act. A recent study shows bowls are up about thirty percent on entree menus over the past five years. 

With the overall growth in breakfast sales in quick-service restaurants, it’s no surprise that breakfast bowls are especially trendy. Dunkin’ announced an egg white bowl in April 2019, which has aided their strong 2019 performance. 

“A lot of places that haven’t done breakfast before are noticing that bowls are very versatile and can be used for any and all dayparts,” says Robert LeSage, corporate chef at Haliburton International Foods. “So it’s definitely something that has become very mainstream.” 

LeSage notes that bowls can be a new revenue stream that do not require dozens of additional SKUs, yet another factor leading to their trendiness. However, the versatility bowls offer is just one reason you might consider adding them to your menu. Here are a few more: 

1. Nutritional Value

Whereas veg-centric diets were once considered fringe, they have gained popularity. Bowls offer the perfect opportunity for chefs to substitute low-carb, gluten-free items in for simple carbs. Grains, vegetables, and plant-based proteins are easy-to-feature items when it comes to the creative process of designing a bowl. 

That means bowls hold high appeal to consumers with dietary restrictions, but also to the health-conscious crowd at large. 

“Instead of a handheld, burrito, burger, or sandwich of some sort, [bowls offer] a more balanced, full meal with all of those different aspects of nutritional value that customers are seeking,” LeSage says. 

2. Flavor

Bowls offer chefs a chance to experiment with different flavor profiles across different dayparts. LeSage cautions chefs against getting too far outside of their comfort zone, however. 

“Everybody is trying to find the next fad or something that is going to bring them to the forefront, but I think it’s really about using quality ingredients and creating a cohesive bowl build that makes sense and checks all of those boxes of flavor, with acid, sweetness, texture, savoriness,” LeSage says. “It’s a challenge for sure to come up with something unique that still fits your brand and demographic.” 

Pickled vegetables are an ingredient LeSage recommends. He says they bring the flavor, texture, and color that chefs are looking for. 

3. Popular with younger diners

Not only do younger diners tend to be more health-conscious, they are also responsible for the way social media has reshaped the food industry. Both of these factors have led to the growth of bowls. 

“Bowls tend to be eye-appealing, a lot more unique,” LeSage says. “Using all those different ingredients, you’ve got a lot of different colors and textures that you probably wouldn’t see on traditional burgers and sandwiches.”

Bowls aren’t just for younger diners, however. They can be created to appeal to many different consumers, LeSage says. They can be rich and decadent, or light and healthy, or anywhere in between. That’s part of the reason LeSage believes bowls aren’t just a fad. 

“Bowls are definitely here to stay,” LeSage says. “I mean, it’s a bowl. You haven’t really reinvented anything. It’s something that we eat out of every day. It’s a matter of presenting something unique and layering ingredients in a certain way.” 

By Charlie Pogacar

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