Offer customers a classic Autumn side dish with a twist, Acorn Squash with Maple Georgia Pecans & Goat Cheese, see recipe pg. 66
Side dishes play a significant role on noncommercial menus:
- They add color, flavor, and texture to the entree.
- Unique sides can increase the perceived value of a meal and therefore the price.
- Operators can introduce ethnic flavor profiles and/or geographic specialties to consumers who may be more willing to try smaller portions of a "new" flavor than a whole plate full of an unfamiliar dish.
- And sides can be used as a way to introduce new "potential" entree items¯ specifically bean and grain specialties that are not only unique side dish options but may also be particularly appealing to health-conscious and vegetarian consumers.
In fact, according to data provided to FM by the Chicago-based Foodservice Research Institute noncommercial operators offer more healthful preparations for their side dish options¯¯less fried sides (10%)¯¯than commercial operators (27%). (For more side dish statistics see the FM Trend Watch charts on page 76.)
And although potatoes, rice, and vegetables classically rule as a side dish option, grains are making a significant showing.
At Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota in Sioux Falls, whole grains have always been emphasized on the menu¯albeit in a quiet supportive role on the overall menu.
Joanne Shearer, RD, team leader of food and nutrition services at the hospital, estimates that 90% of the side dishes, cereals, and breads served are whole grain. "But we don't make a big deal about it, it's just a part of our mission," she says. The grains they incorporate daily are barley, quinoa (see recipes page 70) and bulgur, because they not only complement fish and chicken dishes but make excellent sides and salads.
When introducing new recipes to customers, regardless of how they are prepared, "It takes persistance in experimenting with and offering new dishes," says Shearer. "It's like feeding children in a way. They say that you need to introduce a new food to a child at least 10 times before it's accepted. Well— let's face it—it's no different for adults!" she says.
Whether you have a formal side dish concept, offer seasonal specialties or indulge the chefs' creativity by offering a myriad of sides, operators can look to the pages that follow for unique and delicious side dish recipe additions.