Sauces are certainly not a new thing in professional kitchens. The so-called French “mother sauces” date back to the 19th century and include Careme’s Bechamel, Veloute and Espagnole, as well as Escoffier’s 20th-century additions of Veloute, Sauce Tomat and Hollandaise.
Chefs today still appreciate the addition of a good sauce to center-of-the-plate proteins, and there are plenty of sauce ideas available that are considerably simpler than the mother sauces — no roux, liasons or emulsions required.
Here are a few stats on why sauces are trending again in today’s restaurant kitchens, courtesy of Ventura Foods:
- Sauces are a safe way for an operator to deliver a new experience and increase their value proposition to consumers through a distinctive addition. Consider the main components of the menu and how a sauce could create a unique twist to upgrade the experience for the consumer.
- Specialty sauces associated with a specific Operator can drive traffic and loyalty. Consider the development of a signature sauce to drive the value experience and differentiation.
- Asian and African flavors are a driving trend in the U.S. The multi-sensorial experience of the deep, rich colors, vibrant aromatics and balanced flavor complexity drive interest in these items. Consider using these flavors as a way to twist up a sandwich as a spread or +1 with Ranch dressing for a new salad experience. They also make great drizzles on pizza or COP protein.
Of course, sauces can play a role from soup to nuts, if you will. Here are some specifics:
Alcohol Infusions: Operators are bringing the bar into the kitchen with craveable, alcohol-infused sauces. Such sauces are trending in virtually all meal parts, from entrees to desserts. For example, there’s been a 55% increase in mentions of bourbon in dessert sauces over the past five years.
What’s next: Increased Champagne-and Prosecco-infused sauces, Brandy and rum showing up in sauces at high-end CDRs, Even more cobranded sauces with big-name and regional beverage brands
Housemade Preps: Taking the time to make sauces on-premisepays off. For example, more than 40% of fast-casual consumers say they’re willing to spend more for housemade items. Sauces made in house add to the perception of freshness, healthfulness and seasonality. Plus, house-prepared sauces allow chefs to be creative in the kitchen and can often cut down on operating costs, as chefs can often cross-utilize ingredients that are already in the back of the house.
What’s next: Specialty and BYO pizza chains spotlighting housemade sauces, Housemade sauces drawing on locally grown produce, Hot sauces and ethnic condiments fermented in house
Customizability: Consumers (especially Gen Zers) demand customization in all areas of foodservice, and sauces are no exception. Growing numbers of barbecue, Mexican and other fast-casual chains are branching out with proprietary sauces, available for self-serve use on tables and for purchase at the register.
What’s next: Growing sales of house-branded sauces at LSRs, BYOs embrace world flavors and their accompanying flavor-packed sauces, Spread of self-serve and BYO sauce opportunities into FSRs
Revamped Classics: Restaurants are increasingly putting new spins on classics, as well as on traditional favorites like pesto, aioli, marinara and hummus. Add-ins to sauces like fresh herbs, seasonal produce and other unexpected ingredients heighten uniqueness and drive consumer satisfaction.
What’s next: Sauce mashups, like pesto hummus or Sriracha mayonnaise, Pestos featuring nontraditional nuts like hazelnuts and walnuts, Spicy and colorful additions to traditionally bland white sauces, like chipotle hollandaise
The Next Sriracha? The popularity of this Thai chili sauce has paved the way for other ethnic sauces to make their way onto menus. And consumers are looking for complex spicy flavors, not just pure heat. Especially trendy are ethnic hot sauces that introduce novel spices and flavor combinations.
What’s next: More Indian ghost pepper sauce callouts, Asian-influenced hot sauces like sambal and gochujang, Middle Eastern and North African heat from harissa, sumac and dukka-spiked sauces