Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
April 12, 2022

Art Carl

Art Carl

After conducting extensive consumer research over the last few years, Dave & Buster’s came away with three must-haves for its menu: a culinary identity, fresh ingredients and speed of service. “It was clear that our guests wanted that from us,” says Art Carl, Dave & Buster’s VP of culinary & beverage R&D. “So we thought about what we’ve been and where we wanted to go.” That thinking brought the brand to an “inspired American kitchen” style of food offered up at Dave & Buster’s. “We’re a comfortable place people can go for their favorites,” he says. “But adding that ‘inspired’ piece is important—it wasn’t fully developed, but now it’s part of our identity.”

To achieve culinary excellence bundled with a fun experience, Carl and team took a fresh approach. Development of LTOs is a new tactic for Dave & Buster’s, rolled up under its new “Core and Explore” menu strategy. “Our core items are staples like nachos and wings. On the ‘explore’ side, we develop items that might surprise our guests, like Butternut Squash Ravioli with brown butter sauce, which ran on our winter menu, and the Spicy Taco Burger, rolling out as a summer LTO,” says Carl. “Burgers do really well for us, and this one is a lot of fun for our guests. Yes, it’s over the top, but it’s crafted carefully so it’s packed with great flavors and textures.”

The Spicy Taco Burger is part of a summer LTO menu that includes a playful Cinnamon Toast-Fried Ice Cream and an elegant Blood Orange Paloma. Coming out of concept and into test is a chicken souvlaki dish, launching as a spring 2023 LTO. The brand’s innovation cycle is set at 18 months out for concepting and 12 months out to put into test; and testing for LTOs runs concurrent with core items in a quarterly cycle, giving the menu a dynamic flow. “Our goal with Core and Explore and our LTOs is to get the people who come inside our four walls to emotionally attach to our food and beverage,” says Carl. “We’re talking to Millennials and Gen Zs, and we’re reaching for new consumers. It’s all part of our ongoing strategy.”

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