No. 2: New ethnic flavors
“‘Ethnic’ doesn't just mean teriyakifor Japanese or pad thai for Thai — instead, operators are moving past such traditional flavors and experimenting with new ingredients and dishes, drawing inspiration from Asian, Latin and Mediterranean cuisines primarily,” Datassential reported.
That includes Thai sweet chile sauce, now so widespread that McDonald’s has such a sauce, tested during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, available nationwide today.
Red Robin also serves Thai chile sauce with its lightly breaded mushroom appetizer, and it also has a Sriracha dry seasoning on its spicy new burger, The Cry Baby.
The Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich is also on a virtual roll, available at many independent restaurants as well as at 18-unit flex-casual chain Mama Fu’s. Based in Austin, Texas, the chain won an Nation’s Restaurant News MenuMasters award earlier this year for its sandwich.
Chipotle subsidiary Shophouse also opened last year with a bánh mì offering, and Wendy’s is currently testing a chicken flatbread version of the sandwich.
From Latin America, the herb vinaigrette chimichurri is appearing on dishes ranging from Rubio’s new salmon taco, to Applebee’s Fiesta Chicken Chopped Salad.
From the Mediterranean, the Greek yogurt sauce tzatziki is showing up on menus ranging from The Cheesecake Factory, where it appears on its Santorini Farro Salad, to T.G.I. Friday’s which last year offered “Tapa-tizer Skewers, including one with lemon-garlic sauce and Tzatziki, available with black Angus sirloin or chicken.”