Diners today are different beasts than those encountered in the past. Previously, major foodservice chains were able to create empires across the nation by cooking foods that changed little no matter where you ate them, from Florida to Washington state. However, today's diners are a bit more interested in experimenting with new flavors and experiencing new tastes. To keep up, foodservice is trying to cash in on the "local foods" trend.
McDonald's is one such company that built a massive empire, but even it must pay its respects to the regional tastes of its customers. The company is bringing its New England-style lobster roll sandwich back for a second year at a price point of $8.99. The sandwich will be available at 60 locations in New England, including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York.
However, bringing regional tastes to consumers isn't always about feeding customers fare they are accustomed to. The Hard Rock Cafe launched it's second World Burger Tour, offering diners the opportunity to enjoy burgers inspired from locations around the world. The menu includes the Mediterranean veggie burger, Caribbean veggie burger, Istanbul Kafta chicken burger and Indian tandoori chicken burger, among others.
Limited-time promotions can spark some interest in a chain, but some companies can take a regional favorite and include it on their regular menu. California-based Chinese foodservice chain Panda Express operates 1,900 locations in the U.S., but plays to specific markets. These products are often inspired by the tastes of local citizens, including Mapo Tofu in Ann Arbor, MI, and Springfield Cashew Chicken in Springfield, MO.
The lessons from these cases should be clear. No matter the size of an operation, people today are looking for more "authentic" meals, regardless of where they are actually sourced from. Providing novel meals, playing on local tastebuds or even reintroducing regional favorites can all pay dividends for foodservice companies. Just remember to keep your focus on an evolving customer base that wants to try something new.