What is in this article?:
- Restaurant chains experiment with sauces to add flavor
- Intensifying a brand identity
Chains are discovering that sauces are a cost-effective way to innovate on flavor.
Restaurant executives attest there really is no secret to the latest wave of sauce- and glaze-focused menu introductions and limited-time offers, saying it satisfies customers’ need for flavor exploration while giving culinary teams a cost-effective way to innovate.
In new products from Chili’s Grill & Bar, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Wienerschnitzel, much of the items’ flavor profiles come from new sauces for dipping or glazing, which chain officials said allows them to experiment, generate news and elevate their brands’ overall taste profile. Wing Zone has applied that mindset to its entire menu with the Flavor Fuze program, which lets guests take any of the chain’s 17 wing sauces and use them in salads, burgers, shrimp or fries.
Kicking it up a notch
Dick Lynch, Popeyes’ chief global brand officer, said the chain focuses on being just as prolific in its development of dipping sauces as in its boneless-lineup, including Wicked Chicken and Rip’n Chick’n, or the new Handcrafted Tenders, which rolled out Monday.
“It’s a little like a wine pairing,” Lynch said. “Each boneless product has a specific profile. Handcrafted Tenders are a little more of a blank slate, so that’s why we developed a whole line of sauces to enhance them.”
Handcrafted Tenders are the 2,049-unit brand’s relaunched chicken tender product and will anchor the boneless lineup permanently, he added.
As with all menu items, he said, the sauces play to Popeyes’ Louisiana heritage of Cajun and Creole food. In addition to barbecue and buttermilk ranch, the lineup includes Bayou Buffalo, with celery and Cajun seasonings; Sweet Heat, with honey and hot sauce; Mardi Gras Mustard, sweetened with Creole seasoning; and Blackened Ranch, which infuses the standard ranch with onion, garlic, peppers and the chain’s Blackened seasoning.
“Frankly, it’s fun for the chefs, it’s news for the category, and there is just a lot of room for innovation and creativity, especially when pairing it with a protein that has its own flavor profile,” Lynch said. “You could safely say it adds a lot of value to the product to have a unique sauce, for relatively little cost to us.”
Hot dog specialist Wienerschnitzel also introduced a new product Monday, Der Chicken Dippers, a popcorn chicken item available with three sauces: Sweet and Tangy BBQ, Spicy Buffalo Wing, and Creamy Ranch.
The Dippers are sold in portions that start at $3.59 for one-third of a pound, up to one pound.
“We’ve always strived to give our customers variety paired with unique everyday value, and adding Der Chicken Dippers with tasty dipping sauces gives loyal fans yet another fun-to-eat menu option,” Tom Amberger, the 350-unit chain’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “Der Chicken Dippers did extremely well in our test markets, so we’re excited to make this menu item available to all of our guests.”