Bread trends look to reinvent catering menus

As any  off-premise expert will tell you, it’s all about the menu and how any restaurant product gets delivered to a customer’s door. Soggy bread, spilled soup or hot foods delivered cold can dampen even the best catering or take out business.

So how can restaurant operators ensure they deliver the best brand experience? For starters, they should have a menu that elevates and supports their off-premise brand strategy. This means reviewing your menu items to best determine the ones that qualify for your catering operation. Additionally, it’s about creating a catering menu that will keep guests coming back for more.

Bread is a big part of many catering menus; however, sandwiches on breads and buns eaten off-premise have decreased by one percent, according to NPD Group. Sales for white, rye and multi-grain breads also have decreased between 3 percent and 10 percent, according to NPD data.

So while bread now seems to be an unlikely key to catering menu success, it is still a key nonetheless.

According to a U.S. Foods bread trends report, leading bread trends include artisan breads, in-house baking products, flatbreads and focaccia, whole grain items, and gluten-free options. Meanwhile, premium breads such as ciabatta, and sourdough continue to be the sandwich breads of choice at the top 500 limited-service restaurant chains, according to Technomic.

In homage to whole/ancient grains and artisan bread trends, La Brea Bakery has launched farm-to-table artisan bread made from single-origin heirloom grains while Smart Flour Foods has unveiled ancient grain hoagie rolls and hamburger buns. Sara Lee also has introduced its bakery-inspired bread, Artesano bread.

Additionally, at this year’s National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, Quebec-based bread company Boulart launched its ciabatta baguette bites, which won the show’s 2016 Food & Beverage award.

Boulart has been in business for 10 years and was created based on the need for quality bread products that can ship across the U.S. and Canada, and maintain their form and flavor. Their products primarily consist of artisan breads and baguettes, and the bites were created specifically for catering operations and hospitality programs looking to offer something more in-line with consumer preferences.

Suzy Badaracco, a food trends expert and founder of Culinary Tides, said restaurant operators can stay in-line with trends by pairing bread to the sandwich content.

According to US Foods, 8 out of 10 consumers say that the quality of the bread is the most important component of making a great sandwich. And in today’s menu trends environment, operators can think outside of the bun by offering a variety of types of breads– such as ciabatta — and in a variety of ways.

“For example, make it so the bread is integral to the sandwich,” Badaracco said. “For instance,  corned beef should go on rye, Greek olives and falafel should be in a pita,  grilled chicken with chipotle lime should be in a tortilla, and southern fried chicken served on buttermilk biscuit.”

Overall, by staying true to bread trends, operators can capitalize on the best ways to capture catering sales.

“Grains are definitely on their way back but they are coming forward in several forms including waffles, bagels, biscuits, tortillas, buns, etc.,  which are diluting traditional sandwich bread. But the bread in general is strong,” Badaracco said.

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