One of the largest menu trends of the past year was the farm-to-table concept. Restaurants were trying to incorporate healthy or organic ingredients into their menus – sometimes even from local farms. But the yin to this trend’s yang is another trend on the opposite spectrum of menu trends: the shock value trend, whose primary focus is trying to outdo the last shock value trend by combining comfort foods into one shockingly “out there” menu item. While not appealing to everyone’s pallet, these items are almost always appealing for word of mouth and social exposure, so we imagine these menu trends will continue throughout 2014, despite the focus on healthy or organic menu items we also continue to see. Below are items that some restaurants are already experimenting with.
Burgers and sandwiches seem to be an easy way to experiment with shock value foods by just trying different types of buns that they comes on. For example, over the summer, Dunkin Donuts came out with an egg, bacon and donut sandwich – meaning that the egg and bacon were sandwiched between two glazed donuts. But even before we saw that, a flea market called Smorgasborg in Brooklyn was selling burgers that were wedged between two ramen patties. Or how about Rockit Bar in Chicago, whosandwiches their beef with fried mac & cheese patties? Or Waffle Bus in Dallas, who makes burgers with waffle buns.
At this point, almost everyone has heard of the cronut – a croissant donut hybrid created by pastry chef Dominique Ansel in New York City. People will stand in line for hours for these flaky desserts because of their shock value. Other restaurants around the country have started to take part in this dessert shock value trend, like Holey Cream in New York, who serves chocolate-dipped ice cream donut sandwiches. Even Carl’s Jr. introduced a Pop Tart ice cream sandwich this summer.
Salty & Sweet
Over the past few years the salty and sweet combo has led the pack in making waves when it comes to shock foods. A great example was the bacon milkshake that Burger King debuted a few years back. And snacks since then have been capitalizing on people’s salty sweet tooth. Lay’s recently debuted chicken & waffle chips during a campaign to find a new chip flavor. And Rachel Ray aired an episode on making salty kettle corn with bacon. This trend may be more frequently seen in your grocery aisles, but it’s widespread and could easily be duplicated in your restaurant.
The great thing about shock value foods is that they are really meant to get your name out there. It’s a way to bring your brand to the forefront of people’s attention – it’s not hard to find stories about ramen burgers and cronuts that were picked up by the media. So trying to put your own shock value menu item out there, it could be a win-win situation!