This strategy can help restaurants stay on top of customer demands while driving down operational costs.

Sponsored by Haliburton International Foods.

Because consumers have become increasingly focused on their health, today’s restaurants are tasked with providing a wide range of dishes that offer strong nutritional value. Failing to offer healthy options, however, can hurt guest loyalty.

“Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable, and they are willing to seek out the foods they want to see on the menu based on their dietary needs,” says Mike Leccese, director of culinary and research and development for Haliburton International Foods. “Dietary needs are not universal, so it’s important to create customized menu options that are low calorie, gluten-free, vegetarian, and more.”

However, using healthier or fresher ingredients can introduce new operational challenges. In fact, Leccese says it’s one of the more difficult challenges today’s restaurants face.

“You have to bring in fresh ingredients, trim them, break them down, precook them, cook to order and have them ready to go prior to service,” Leccese says. “Figuring out how to do all this to add fresh ingredients to the menu seamlessly can be challenging to say the least.”

Additionally, with growing labor costs and high turnover rates, training staff to work with these more complex dishes can add further strain.

As a result, many restaurants are turning to ingredients that offer a variety of health benefits but are also easy to work with and versatile. One such ingredient, cauliflower rice, can be used across the menu to create a diverse range of healthy offerings while simplifying ingredient orders. It’s also easy to work with.

“Our cauliflower rice is a neutral canvas,” Leccese says. “It has a nutty, mild, balanced flavor that isn’t overbearing. This means restaurants can use the same ingredient and incorporate many cool flavors to create several new dishes.”

By simply pairing this ingredient with two or three sauces, restaurants can create several new menu items with one core ingredient. For example, Leccese says restaurants can use it to create a Spanish Rice by adding a tomato-flavored sauce seasoned with dried chiles or as fried rice or Thai curry with grilled fish or lamb. “You could even do an Italian concept by pairing it with a pesto sauce for a gluten-free vegetarian option,” he says.

Cauliflower rice can also be used as a filling for pasta, a garnish, a prominent side dish or even a base for a bowl.

Because this ingredient can be used in so many different menu applications, staff will benefit from its simplicity and reduced training burden. This also makes it easier on restaurant management as there are fewer ingredients to order or keep on hand. And with it being individually quick frozen, staff can remove as much or as little as is needed to support service.

But perhaps and maybe most importantly, cauliflower rice will make consumers happy because it’s gluten free, vegetarian, low calorie and low fat. Leccese says restaurants can use menu callouts to make consumers aware of dishes that fit these different dietary needs.

“Some of those nutritional and vegan options often hide in a corner of a menu and are only seen by people looking for those secondary options,” Leccese says. “But cauliflower rice is a product that can stand on its own with everyday menu concepts. It’s already well-known for consumers, and even kids have caught on and enjoy it. It’s a menu item restaurants can be proud of and feature prominently.”

By Peggy Carouthers

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