Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Flavor ROI: Going Upstream Modern Market successfully upgrades a lunchtime staple

A thoughtful approach makes the Curried Salmon Bowl at Modern Market successful, including on-trend ingredients like heirloom grains, braised kale and a coconut and sweet-potato curry.
PHOTO CREDIT: Modern Market

Nate Weir

Modern Market is a fast casual based in Denver that serves farm-fresh, artisan food, including wholesome grain bowls, modern salads and toasted sandwiches.

The concept, which now boasts 30 restaurants, added salmon to the menu a few years ago, but pulled it soon after. It was a grilled and chilled product, served in both a salad Niçoise and a salmon club sandwich. “It sold well for us, but it wasn’t providing the freshness that we wanted,” says Nate Weir, director of culinary operations.

He took it off the menu, then spent a few years working out how to get a quality product that lined up with Modern Market’s mission of mindful, clean sourcing. He landed on an Atlantic farm-raised salmon, brought in IQF, then cooked from frozen.

“It’s farmed responsibly and gives us the volume and consistency we need at the right price point,” says Weir. “It’s a sustainable product, which we call out on the menu because that’s important to us and to our guests.”

He first showcased the salmon in a limited-time offering (LTO) last winter. The Curried Salmon Bowl highlights the sustainable seafood story while packaging it with on-trend flavor combinations. A roasted piece of salmon (about 4 oz.) is served over a blend of heirloom grains, heirloom rice, braised kale, coconut and sweet-potato curry, toasted coconut and green onion.

“It was so successful, we moved it to our core menu and then went about finding other ways to feature salmon,” says Weir.

Modern Market

Introducing the Salmon Caesar Salad on Modern Market’s menu turned out to be a wise move. The loaded, high-quality salad appeals to today’s diners and performs extremely well.

Premium Payoff

Modern Market’s Nate Weir wanted to build on the success of the Curried Salmon Bowl, an LTO-turned-core menu item. “In the spring, we made a big change on our core menu,” says Weir. “We pulled off the Market Caesar and replaced it with the Salmon Caesar Salad. It quickly became our No. 2 seller in overall menu mix. Without the salmon, the Caesar barely cracked the top 10.”

The Salmon Caesar Salad features romaine, salmon, kale, roasted grape tomato, cucumber, basil, ciabatta croutons, Grana Padano and house Caesar dressing.

“It’s the most expensive thing on our menu, so the fact that it’s doing so well indicates to us that consumers are willing to pay more for quality ingredients,” says Weir. “Everyone is trying to eat better these days—healthy fats, lean protein.”

Riding the wave of salmon success, Weir is testing a salmon sandwich in the Dallas market called the Kingfisher Sandwich, featuring salmon, housemade tartar sauce, housemade pickle, fresh dill, red onion, and Cholula-and-citrus marinated cabbage slaw on brioche.

“It’s a preview of what I hope we can continue to explore here,” he says. “I think we’ve done a good job with making these items interesting yet approachable. That effort, along with serving high-quality ingredients, is paying off.”

From the November-December issue of Flavor & the Menu magazine. Read this issue online or check if you qualify for a free print subscription.


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