Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development




By Rob Corliss
September 21, 2020

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Meze, tapas, small plates—those shareable items tie a meal together in a sampling of exciting flavors. Menu planning into 2021 should reflect a return to that social scene (we hope), but it should also take into account the newly opened revenue stream of themed meal kits. Look to meze for both in-dining menu inspiration and off-premise opportunity.

Savvy operators can interpret the sociability, cohesiveness of experience and fun of meze in creative ways that fit their restaurant brands. Consider the following:

  • Offer a sampling of a specific region in the U.S. or from another country
  • Offer a sampling of a specific item or flavor prepared in multiple ways so guests can enjoy the contrast and multi-faceted dimensions of that ingredient—raw, pickled, roasted, sautéed and fried, for example
  • Menu a sampling of your restaurant’s iconic dishes or fan favorite dishes or all-time limited-time offering (LTO) heroes
  • Connect with a culinary theme—create a sense of home with a unique sampling of nostalgic comfort classics
  • Show a peak behind your development pipeline curtain,” teasing a preview of potential new menu items (all while soaking in the candid feedback)
  • Incorporate a customization play, allowing guests to select their choice of toppings or ingredients or mix-ins on the sampler platter (from a specified menu list)
  • Re-purpose individual sides into an exploration of sharable small bites
  • Pair opposites for a fun sensory tasting—sweet/sour, spicy/cooling, lean/fatty
  • Pair complementary drinks with the meze (non-alcohol and/or alcohol)
  • Cross-promote signature items from the operation’s sister restaurant properties (for those chains part of a larger restaurant group with multiple brands) as a way to drive interest and business across the culinary portfolio

The idea of meze is nothing new, but how operators translate the spirit of meze within the context of their restaurant is. Let’s explore additional ideas that offer a fresh take:

“Try This”

Meze Bar Snack

  • Fried Potato Lovers: Fried baked potato wedges + tater tots + mini potato cakes + house chips + array of dips/spreads

Meze Appetizer Sampler

  • Mega Cauli Trio: Celery salt cauliflower “rice” + battered and fried cauliflower Buffalo bites + ranch-flavored roasted cauliflower steak slices

Meze Main Course Sampler

  • A Celebration of Burgers & Shakes: 3 cheeseburger slider versions + 3 mini shake versions (of our all-time fan favorite LTO heroes)

Meze To-Go Meal Kit

  • Date Night (at home) – Cabo Beach Party: Ceviche + assorted tacos/salsa + jicama salad + churros/Mexican chocolate sauce + hibiscus agua fresca (or margaritas)


Bourbon-Glazed Pork Belly Biscuit Sliders

Mini buttermilk cheddar biscuits house rich, savory pork belly garnished with pickled vegetables in these Bourbon-Glazed Pork Belly Biscuit Sliders.



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.