Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development


All Eyes on the Fries

Turn to high impact specialty cuts to elevate a craveable favorite


All Eyes on the Fries

Turn to high impact specialty cuts to elevate a craveable favorite

By Flavor & The Menu
November 30, 2023

By Flavor & The Menu
November 30, 2023

Your french fries may be the most reliably popular item on your menu, regularly selected as a side, or an appetizer, earning raves from diners—and leaving you hesitant to mess with a good thing. But as profit margins narrow and competition rises, it’s simply smart strategy for menu developers to explore opportunities for differentiation. “Specialty potato cuts, like waffles and spirals, allow an operator to ‘chef up’ an ordinary plate of fries,” says Chef Mark Slutzky, Director of Culinary for McCain Foods. McCain Foodservice Solutions offers a wide range of french fry products to restaurant operators, including specialty heroes McCain Skin-On Waffle Fries and McCain Skin-On Spiral Fries.

In short, fries are table stakes. Specialty cuts up the ante, but with minimal risk, easily positioned as an upcharge swap, an additional menu option, a weekly special or a seasonal LTO. Their singular appearance immediately sets them apart from everyday fries in patron perception—how you choose to further leverage that difference is where things get exciting!


At their most fundamental, waffles and spirals offer a number of attractive advantages:

  • They offer greater plate coverage, which consumers tend to translate as delivering higher value.
  • They add fun and engagement to the dining experience, delivering both visual and textural appeal, as well as playful interaction.
  • They signal indulgence and provide a sense of occasion, without straying too far from comfortable familiarity.
  • They carry flavor in a different manner than conventional stick or wedge fries, providing versatility for next-level menu applications and thus are particularly well-suited for the development of signature dishes that encourage diners to “Come for the fries; stay for the entrée.”
In a field of 16 distinct fry styles, Waffle Fries rank No. 1 across the United States in Google searches, with particular embrace among diners in the Midwest and South.
Source: Google Search Trends Insights

Like their conventional cousins, specialty spuds can be transformed by an abundance of different seasonings, spices and dips, absorbing and amplifying emerging global flavors, as well as beloved U.S. regional favorites. Chef Slutzky sees particularly fertile ground for spirals and waffles in the loaded fries space, one that presents enormous potential for today’s menu developers. According to Datassential in its 2023 Menu Trends Report, penetration growth of loaded fries has increased by a whopping 392 percent over the last four years.

“I like to use specialty cuts in innovative loaded fry dishes, like Korean barbecue waffle fries topped with kimchi and Kewpie mayo or birria curly fries heaped with braised beef and Oaxacan cheese,” says Slutzky. “Waffles, in particular, hold up to use in a poutine, a disco fry or a really loaded option. I think of them like tortilla chips—they are great to pull out from a pile of toppings and sauces.”

He finds the shareable fries category to be the perfect canvas for “easy ethnic explorations” influenced by today’s trends and his own personal travels. “I’ve really been into Asian/Latin mash-ups lately,” says Slutzky. “So I came up with a pho-seasoned waffle fry topped with crispy mojo-seasoned pork belly, Chihuahua cheese and a pho broth for dipping. It’s inspired by the birria taco craze and my recent trip to Vietnam.” In addition, the Honey-Hummus Haystack and SXSW Brisket Nachos pictured at the top represent a mere sampling of the different directions chefs can explore with specialty potato cuts as a base for loaded fries.

While waffles and spirals are a natural carrier for the abundance of loaded fries dishes, chefs are urged to dig deep into their versatility to spin up inventive culinary creations that are sure to impress and intrigue diners. Here are four suggestions that demonstrate the changing narrative of fries on modern menus:


Sandwiches and Sliders

“I love using specialty cuts as part of signature sandwiches, wraps and sliders. I have actually menued mini burger sliders using waffle fries as the bun!” says Slutzky. Here, operators can turn the tables on an iconic pairing with this Waffle Sliders concept, featuring a trio of grilled mini burgers topped with melted cheddar and a garlic-parmesan aioli and sandwiched between two crispy waffle-cut fries. Spirals can also be tucked into wraps, flatbreads or pitas, with a nod to Middle Eastern street food falafel handhelds or simply giving new taste and texture to a grilled vegetable wrap.


Craveable Shareables

Amp up conventional takes on craveable cheese fries with this Pull Apart Fry Loaf. Spiral cut fries are layered with shredded cheese in a buttered loaf pan and baked until the cheese is hot, melty and ready for an Instagrammable pull. Serve it with a flight of different dipping sauces, such as barbecue ranch, Cajun ketchup and comeback sauce, itself a trending option that has enjoyed growing menu penetration thanks to its flavorful mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce and Dijon mustard.


Mexican Makeover

These Papa’dillas represent another transformative spin on the ever-popular quesadilla. Flour tortillas are packed with refried beans, Chihuahua cheese, pico de gallo and—surprise!—crispy waffle cut fries. “Breakfast is also interesting. Specialty fries can give interest to a breakfast burrito,” says Slutzky.


High-Low Unions

Mix it up with this Lobster Mac and Cheese Fries, a marriage between simple, comforting macaroni and cheese and the sophistication of lobster pieces and roasted corn. Topping a bed of crisp spiral fries, this dish has all the earmarks of a Millennial and Gen Z must.


“I have always used different cuts of fries at once in my operations,” attests Chef Slutzky. “When I owned my barbecue joint, I used straight-cut, skin-on fries as a side for my traditional barbecue dishes, but used coated waffle fries for both delivery and loaded applications. It is definitely a bit to juggle—I’m not going to lie—but the benefits and opportunities for creativity far outweigh the added inventory.”

McCain Foodservice Solutions offers operators multiple resources to help maximize the opportunity to add specialty fries to their menus and discover the subsequent business benefits. The company even launched a landing page dedicated to specialty fries, where visitors can learn more about specialty cut products and download an LTO guide, specialty fry inspiration booklet, and chef videos featuring waffles and spirals. Are you ready to add depth and character to elevate your fried potato line-up and intrigue new and loyal customers alike? McCain Foodservice Solutions stands ready to help.

Visit the McCain Foodservice Solutions website to discover the flavor-forward opportunities specialty cut fry products can offer your foodservice operation.

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