Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Big & Bold Lightens Up Best of Flavor 2017

Sweet Heat Chicken & Shrimp with ginger-garlic rice and side salad of mixed greens, carrot, cucumber and tomato vinaigrette

Robert Pesch

Cheddar’s developed its Sweet Heat Chicken & Shrimp dish as an offering on its Lighter Side menu, which serves up dishes with fewer than 575 calories. But Robert Pesch, VP of R&D for this from-scratch casual dining chain, says its success is an indicator of evolving dining preferences.

“This menu item not only became a star on our Lighter Side menu, it also rose to the top of sales on the menu as a whole,” he says. “Over time, we have learned that for our guest, big, bold flavors are needed to satisfy the palate. Yet being able to keep the calorie count within reason has only helped elevate the sales of this particular item.”

Mindful flavor building makes this dish shine. Ginger-and-garlic rice studded with fresh herbs serves as the foundation. Grilled chicken and blackened shrimp brushed with housemade mango-chile glaze sit atop the fragrant rice. “The flavors in the rice and proteins give the dish just enough sweet and spice to leave you wanting more,” says Pesch.

He’s now exploring ways to capitalize on the success of the different elements from the dish, using the rice in other menu items and finishing dishes like pork and fried chicken with the mango-chile glaze.

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