Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
April 9, 2023

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Operators are increasingly looking at ways to build value into restaurant downtimes. Breaking from traditional happy hour, operations could offer two social hours, early between 3 to 6 p.m. and late night between 8 p.m. and close, encouraging time-crunched guests to gather, relax and share social bites and drinks within a flexible and convenient timeframe. This convenience “hook” is further set with high quality, irresistible small bites and sharable offerings.

We are seeing restaurants offering boards/platters, side dishes pulled from the main menu and made into shareables, individual small plates and tiered pricing approaches. The Beer Kitchen, a gastropub in Kansas City, Mo., exemplifies this with a happy hour lineup of $4, $5 and $6. The $6-offering features house wine, spicy papas, stockyard fries, and a pair of cheeseburger sliders.

Another standout that touts a bold, fresh approach to its cuisine is 6Smith, a modern American restaurant in Wayzata, Minn. Its diverse daily happy hour features a range of tiered pricing with curated selections that include tap beer, standard rail mixed drinks, and wine paired with craveable bites like short rib chili cheese nachos, sambal-glazed chicken wings, carne asada tacos and triple dip french fries.

Here’s further inspiration from 10 national restaurants making their social hour menus a can’t-miss destination.

Short Rib Fried Rice: Jasmine rice, sofrito, peas, “yum yum” sauce
Nolo’s Kitchen & Bar, Minneapolis

Embutidos Mixtos: Assorted grilled Spanish sausages with warm potato and curtido salad, with coarse grain mustard vinaigrette
La Bodega, Kansas City, Mo.

Nitamago Deviled Eggs: Soy-poached egg, bacon-pea jam, slow braised Kurobuta pork belly
Ascend, Bellevue, Wash.

Bourbon & Apricot Glazed Meatballs with Fresno chile jam
Fleming’s, Newport Beach, Calif.

Bacon Fat Popcorn: Heirloom popcorn, rendered bacon
Citizen Public House, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Steak Frites with Coffee and Ancho: Center-cut filet mignon and fries
Pierpont’s, Kansas City, Mo.

Bacon-Poached Chicken Wings with miso-lime gochujang sauce
W.A. Frost and Company, St. Paul, Minn.

Grilled Brat Bun: Dijon aïoli, apple + celery slaw, pickled mustard seed
Bud & Marilyn’s, Philadelphia

Filet Mignon Sliders: King’s Hawaiian Roll, horseradish aïoli
Citizen Public House, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Braised Pork Belly: Morcilla sausage-chickpea stew, herbs, chicharrones
Extra Virgin, Kansas City, Mo.



About The Author

Rob Corliss

Rob Corliss is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu.