Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Bowl’ed Beauties The bowls movement is showing no signs of slowing, fueled in large part by the trend in plant-based foods

This Texas Ranchero Bean Bowl is artfully arranged, showcasing each flavor-packed element beautifully.

Bowls offer a rich, varied platform for innovation—and one that chefs continue to explore for flavor forward, signature menu offerings. Driven by the fast casual segment, but adopted in both quick serve and full service, one of the biggest opportunities with bowls is how it easily taps into the plant-based trend. Adding a layer of spiced black beans or a finish of crispy chickpeas, for instance, offers diners satiety and wholesomeness—two things that help spell success in the bowls space.

At D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, Philip Smith, Director of Culinary & Product Development, decided to invest in a bowls strategy. “Some combinations of flavors lend themselves well to the idea of bowls. For example, grilled chicken teriyaki in a bowl,” he says. “So redeveloping bowls gave us an opportunity to represent our familiar core ingredients—in new, appealing presentations. Also, bowls, more than sandwiches, lend themselves to the idea of a plated entrée—repositioning bowls might be a means to extend our appeal into the evening daypart.”

In refreshing the category, Smith developed five bowl presentations, and although all stand out with craveable flavor, the Southwestern Chicken, Rice & Grain Bowl exemplifies the success of adding a distinct bowls category. Built on a wholesome blend of Colusari red rice, red jasmine rice, black quinoa, baby lentils and white rice, the build sees grilled chicken with a chipotle sauce, pickled jalapeño, onion and bell peppers, a charred corn-black bean-pepper salad, ranch dressing and fresh cilantro.

At Square Roots Kitchen, a fast-casual lunch spot based in Chicago, the Comfort Food Bowl offers up a warm bowl of goodness with its Comfort Food Bowl, which features both protein and plant-based protein. Warm quinoa, juicy pulled pork, housemade spicy corn, black beans, cheddar and a barbecue sauce drizzle make up the profile. “The dish is supposed to be evocative of that warm barbecue flavor, but with our spin on it,” says Derin Alemli, Founder and CEO. “It’s comfort food, but it’s not terrible for you—it’s made with clean ingredients and clocks in at under 900 calories.”

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