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The success of venues and restaurants is reliant on many factors including its location, customer service standards, atmosphere and most importantly the food that’s on offer. And while it is well and good to follow and adapt to food trends, keeping customers happy and engaged with the menu can be difficult when new additions are adding to menus.
Menus should always be reviewed and updated regularly to remain on trend with the current drivers. Though, making sure the all-time crowd favourites remain prominent on the menu is just as important (sometimes even more). When it comes to developing an ideal menu, there always needs to be a balance between new and traditional dishes.
While taste is always a determining factor, so is popularity, versatility, preparation and costs. That’s why balancing the needs of your customers and your venue can be challenging. To help you make the important decisions, we have unearthed four entrées your customers just can’t get enough of, no matter the type or size of the venue (and yep, they are all traditional classics).
Antipasto platters have been around for years. They’re commonly known as being a platter whipped together in the comfort of one’s home for events and functions. But now the Italian offering has worked its way onto entrée and sharing menus across the country. Served with cheeses, cured meats, dips and breads; antipasto boards provide your guests with a tasty experience.
Offering a variety of cheeses as part of the board is important. Choose cheeses that have different textures, soft and firm, as well as diverse flavours, such as blue cheese, mozzarella and cheddar. Then when it comes to meats, loosely arrange pre-sliced slices of salami, prosciutto, coppa and ham. To bring the platter to life, fruits and vegetables are the way to go as they add a pop of colour.
Marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, garlic olives, picked onions, sweet pickles, celery and carrot sticks appear vibrant and eye-catching on the board. Whereas grapes, strawberries, berries and nuts add a component of freshness and sweetness. And while it is best to keep the boards simple, toasted or fresh baguette, garlic bread and light crackers can also be served as a base for the spread.
When it comes to appearance, this component is just as important as the good served. Antipasto platters are commonly served on wooden boards as they provide a real rustic look and feel. Large cutting boards are also increasing in popularity, as well as round platters and dishes. But make sure the board is decided prior to arranging the assortment because it’s best not to over crowd the dish and fill up your customers before they move onto their next dish.
It’s on every menu, no matter if it is a quick service restaurant, a five-star restaurant or even the local pub and club – garlic bread is always there. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it is one of the most sought-after entrée dishes when it comes to your customers. The trusted garlic bread brings a sense of home cooking to every venue.
While it’s commonly served as an entrée, many venues are beginning to also add garlic bread as a side option for many Italian-inspired pasta dishes, especially spaghetti. The best thing about this crowd favourite is that you can either make your own using a garlic butter spread and fresh bread or if you looking for ways to save time, pre-made servings that produce the same flavour are readily available.
Along with it being a convenient product for many chefs, it can also be added to menus in many different ways. Garlic bread’s ability to be transformed into a gourmet delight is truly powerful. You can either keep it simple as garlic or herb bread or take it to the next level by adding layers of cheese or tomato. Sprinkle some parsley over-the-top to add a touch of colouring or even some parmesan cheese for a real punchy flavour. Another alternative is using the loaf a base for a bruschetta, with freshly chopped tomatoes, onion and parsley and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
These days, every café, restaurant, pub and club offer squid to their patrons. Whether it is as an entrée serving or as a main course, it’s there, front and centre – and customers just can’t get enough of it. Squid is fried, fun and flavoursome – the flavour combinations and serving options are never-ending. “It’s just everywhere. Everyone loves it and if it’s on a menu, everyone orders it,” Chef Dan Hong told the SBS.
Squid is commonly offered with a light coating of salt and pepper and flash fried in the fryer, served with a side of tartare sauce. “Salt and pepper squid might well be Australia’s national dish,” Chef Adam Liaw explained to the SBS. “I can hardly think of another that is so widely available everywhere, from pubs to cafes, bistros and restaurants”.
But now chefs are beginning to experiment with the seafood, coating it in chilli and serving it with a rich, sweet soy sauce or alongside a wedge of lemon, zucchini and aioli. Though when it comes to playing with flavours, the seasoning needs to be right and not too over powering – so trialling is important. Melbourne chef, James Maffescioni told the ABC “it [squid] works with a range of different flavours, sweet, sour, chilli, spicy, salty. You can bake it, you can sear it, you can deep fry it, you can cure it”.
They’re golden, crunchy, an all-time favourite and are offered on every single menu (and these days offered in a variety of ways). Yep, we’re talking about the French fries, or as Aussie call them, hot chips. Fries have been transformed from the greasy takeaway classic to now a staple in every kitchen and appearing on every menu. Long gone are the days when the simple, long, thin cut fry was the only option available for chefs. These days, you have the option of steak cut, waffles, crinkle cut or wedges – the styles of fries are forever changing and customers are loving it!
But it’s not just the style that’s forever evolving – so too is the use of toppings, the transformation of other vegetables mimicking the fry and the revolution of dipping condiments like ketchup or BBQ sauce. These days, sweet potatoes are being transformed into a chip delight and is a perfect combination of sweet and savoury. Then there are mozzarella fries, polenta fries, even zucchini fries that are taking chip menus to the next level.
Then there are the toppings you can serve up. While ketchup, tomato sauce, BBQ sauce and aioli are still popular amongst customers, the thrill of ordering fries load with cheese and bacon is still present. Belly Bao in Newtown, NSW offer fries to their customers but in three different ways. Want fries with truffle aioli? They have you covered. After sweet potato fries with chilli aioli? They have the dish for you. Want something more out there like curry cheese fries with Japanese curry sauce, onion and cheese sauce
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that garlic bread, fries, squid and antipasto boards are popular entrée dishes that customers just can’t get enough of. Each dish has been around for years, some even centuries, proving that while trends are quick to pop up, customers just can’t move past the classics. So, don’t go reinventing your menu too quickly, and if you do, make sure these favourites remain at the top of the keep list!