Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Katie Ayoub
June 20, 2019

Just say the word “chocolate” and a good number of dining consumers swoon. Although it presents a reliable pathway to a dessert transaction, restaurant brands, of course, are still tasked with making their chocolate-rich desserts worth the splurge. Three concepts we talked to take different approaches, but report huge success with their chocolate desserts.

The first updates a nostalgic snack, adding personality and panache for dramatic presence. The second concept follows the Instagram model of “more is more,” reminding all of us that dessert can be riotous fun. And the third concept featured here reports success through signaturizing a classic treat through modern flavor touches.

Yearning for Yodels

Juniper & Ivy serves a few riffs on the Yodel, including this one: a chocolate devil’s food cake log stuffed with dark chocolate pâté, hazelnut brittle and white chocolate pellets, covered in a hard chocolate shell: a server pours warm chocolate ganache tableside.

The dessert category offers a great playground for both fun and nostalgia. Today, restaurants are reeling in diners with elevated takes on fan-favorite candy bars, snacks and branded desserts. The Yodel, a riff on the Drake’s snack cake, is menued at modern American fine-dining concept Juniper & Ivy, giving guests the chocolate cylinder they expect while adding a sophisticated spin.

A chocolate devil’s food cake log is stuffed with dark chocolate pâté, hazelnut brittle and crunchy white chocolate pellets, covered in a hard chocolate cylinder shell, then dusted with cocoa and topped with chocolate cookie crumbs and strawberries. A server pours warm chocolate ganache on top for an entertaining finish that rides the growing tableside trend. “The dessert is interactive as the ganache melts the cylinder, and guests can enjoy contrasting hot and cold temperatures within a single bite,” says Executive Chef Anthony Wells. Juniper & Ivy offers seasonal takes on the Yodel, using the basic format as a jumping-off point. In the fall, it’s an apple version, while a strawberry version (pictured here) graced the menu for Valentine’s Day and the month of February.

Sundae Funday

Main Event’s Big Fun Super Sundae goes all out with gelato, chocolate sauce, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, Oreo crumbs, cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes and an Airheads candy stick.

Sometimes bigger is better. At Main Event, a family entertainment center concept featuring entertainment alongside casual dining, the sheer size of the Big Fun Super Sundae is a draw. With a height of 12 inches and a volume that requires a 53-oz. glass, the shareable dessert is immediately Instagrammable, and encapsulates the destination’s fun vibe.

Four scoops of gelato—strawberry, chocolate crunch, vanilla, and blue cookies and cream—establish a cool, colorful base. The gelato is topped with chocolate sauce, chocolate brownies, chocolate chip cookies, Oreo crumbs, whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles. Two skewers of warm cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes and two skewers of rainbow Airheads candy stick out of the glass, giving the dessert a dose of heat, a dash of sour, and cementing the dessert’s status as photo-worthy.

“The dessert showcases a variety of textures—from the cold, creamy gelato to the chunky cookie bites and the warm, soft doughnut holes,” says Mark Boyton, Director of Menu Innovation. “You get rich flavors from the brownie bites and sour flavors from the candies—packing a punch to your taste buds.”

Since the debut of the Big Fun Super Sundae, Main Event’s overall dessert category has more than doubled in both units and revenue. Its success has led Main Event to develop even larger shareable dessert.

Blonde Ambition

The Hollywood Blonde at Loews Hollywood Hotel stars Oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate chunks, caramel blondie, cake icing, vanilla whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Mark Ching, Executive Chef of Loews Hollywood Hotel, was inspired by a blondie served at Duidough Café & Cookie Lab in Los Angeles. Duidough is one of Loews’ partners in its “Flavor by Loews Hotels” program, which brings hyper-local products into the hotel properties. Taking inspiration from Duidough’s unique blondie recipe, he thought, “Hollywood … blondie. Hollywood … blonde.”

“What caught my attention was Duidough’s interpretation of a blondie, which is normally pretty one-dimensional in flavor and textural profiles,” Ching says. His Hollywood Blonde starts with Duidough’s version of a blondie, a base of Oreo cookie crumbs layered with chocolate chunks and a caramel blondie. Ching then adds a signature flourish of German chocolate cake icing (toasted pecan caramel laced with roasted coconut and a touch of Maldon sea salt), vanilla-scented whipped cream, and more toasted shaved coconut.

“The Hollywood Blonde is a best seller on both our room service and H² Kitchen & Bar dessert menus,” says Ching.

About The Author

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Katie Ayoub is managing editor of Flavor & The Menu. She has been working in foodservice publishing for more than 16 years and on the Flavor team since 2006. She won a 2015 Folio award for her Flavor & The Menu article, Heritage Matters. In 2006, she won “Best Culinary Article” from the Cordon D’Or for an article on offal.