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Pizza Today Reveals Top New Cheeses

Pizza Today Reveals Top New Cheeses for 2024

by David Klemt

Cheese pull from cheese pizza

Pizza Today‘s informative 2024 Pizza Industry Trends Report is full of useful information, from top styles and toppings to new cheeses guests can choose.

Two weeks ago we did a deep dive into the top eleven pizza styles going into 2024, per Pizza Today. Click here to read that article.

Last week we checked out what the pizza publication had to say about top pizza styles by region. Additionally, we looked at the top toppings nationally and regionally. You can read that article here.

Now, we’re going to talk about what Pizza Today has learned about the top cheeses operators are putting on their menus.

Top Pizza Styles, Nationally and Regionally

Before we jump into the cheeses, a quick recap of the top pizza styles in America.

  1. New York
  2. Traditional American
  3. Sicilian
  4. Deep Dish
  5. Neapolitan / Napoletana
  6. Chicago Thin / Tavern-style
  7. Detroit
  8. Grandma
  9. California / American Artisan
  10. NEOpolitan / Neo-Neapolitan and Chicago Thick (tie)

And now, the top trending pizza styles.

  1. Detroit
  2. Deep Dish and Grandma (tie)
  3. Sicilian
  4. New York
  5. Chicago Thin

Finally, the top pizza styles by region. For a more detailed explanation of each region, click here.

The West

  1. New York Style
  2. Traditional America
  3. California/American Artisan
  4. Sicilian
  5. Neapolitan

The South

  1. New York Style
  2. Traditional America
  3. Sicilian
  4. Deep Dish
  5. Neapolitan

The Midwest

  1. Traditional America
  2. Chicago Thin
  3. New York Style
  4. Deep Dish
  5. Detroit

The Northeast

  1. New York Style
  2. Sicilian
  3. Traditional America
  4. Neapolitan
  5. Grandma

Top Pizza Toppings, Nationally and Regionally

We’re almost to the cheeses. First, a recap of the most popular items to put on top of cheese.

Well, unless we’re talking a stuffed pizza. Click here and scroll to Deep Dish to see what I mean.

Now, the top toppings across the US.

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Extra Cheese
  5. Bacon
  6. Chicken
  7. Onion
  8. Red/Green Bell Pepper
  9. Ham
  10. Black Olives
  11. Meatballs
  12. Canadian Bacon
  13. Jalapenos
  14. Pineapple
  15. Beef
  16. Basil
  17. Banana Peppers
  18. Fresh garlic
  19. Tomatoes
  20. Spinach

Below, how toppings break down regionally.

The West

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Chicken
  5. Bacon

The South

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Extra cheese
  5. Bacon

The Midwest

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Bacon
  5. Onion

The Northeast

  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Mushroom
  • Extra cheese
  • Bacon

Top “New” Cheeses

Okay, so we’ve reviewed top pizza styles. We’ve done a recap for toppings.

So, what are some of the top “new” cheeses going onto those pizza styles and being covered in all those toppings?

It may seem odd the refer to the cheeses below as “new.” In this context, “new” means, “not mozzarella” or “not provolone,” for the most part. Or, if you’re in St. Louis, “not Provel.”

  • Ricotta
  • Cheddar
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Goat Cheese
  • Parmigiano Crema
  • Cotija Cheese
  • Scamorza
  • Vegan Cheese
  • Blue Cheese
  • Feta

Guests love personalization, and they love the opportunity to try new foods and new takes on foods they know.


For the most part, you’re likely familiar with all the cheeses above. However, if you’re like me, you may be unfamiliar with scamorza. If that’s the case, I looked into it for both of us.

Like mozzarella, scamorza is made from either stretched cow or water buffalo milk cheese curds. This cheese originates from Italy and comes in two styles: scamorza bianca or and scamorza affumicata. The former is white or natural, while the latter is smoked and brownish in appearance.

Further, bianca is a mild, somewhat sweet cheese. Affumicata, being smoked, delivers a more savory and, as one would expect, smoky flavor.

Vegan Cheese

If you aren’t offering vegan or plant-based cheese for your pizzas, you may not know what brands to use.

Well, don’t worry. I’ve also done some legwork into this topic.

Brands to check out are Violife, Diya, Chao, and Miyoko’s. As plant-based alternatives become more commonplace and expected by guests, I expect more commercial vegan-friendly cheeses to become available. Perhaps we’ll see some at this year’s National Restaurant Association Show.

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Program for Unique Holidays: January 2024

Program for Unique Holidays: January 2024

by David Klemt

"Think about things differently" neon sign

Do you want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Change how you kick off the new year with your January holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and this month is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to esoteric.

Pay attention to the “weird” or unique holidays to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing? Why program only around the same holidays as everyone else?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, strange or otherwise. Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

You’ll find suggestions for promotions below. However, the idea behind our monthly holiday promotions roundup is to inspire you and your team to get creative and come up with unique programming ideas.

For our December 2023 holidays list, click here.

January 2: Thank God It’s Monday Day

We all know the Monday trope: It’s the day of the week to fear, inspiring the Sunday Scaries.

Well, this month encourages people to change how they look at the start of the workweek. Your venue can play a role, offering F&B promotions and entertainment programming that puts people in good spirits on a Monday.

January 3: National Fruitcake Toss Day

Another trope? Fruitcake somehow becoming a rock star during the end-of-year holiday season. I suppose this divisive dessert gets the “rock” part right…

If you have the space, you can hold a fruitcake tossing competition. Nobody’s going to eat the fruitcakes they were given, so they may as extract some joy from them.

January 9: National Cassoulet Day

This French dish is warm and comforting. And according to Tastewise, social conversations were up 20 percent in 2023.

However, less than one percent of restaurants have cassoulet on their menus in the US. Could be an excellent opportunity for savvy operator and kitchen team.

January 13: National Peach Melba Day

Each December, Pantone announces the next year’s Color of the Year. At this point, it’s a tradition.

For 2024, that color is Peach Fuzz. So, it makes sense to put peach dishes and drinks on your menu. The Peach Melba is a dessert consisting of peach wedges resting in raspberry sauce, accompanied by vanilla ice cream. However, there’s no reason your kitchen team can’t make this their own by getting creative with ice cream flavors and other accompaniments.

January 14: Start of National Mocktail Week

This is an excellent way to help guests celebrate Dry January. However, it’s important to note that some sober guests find the term “mocktail” disrespectful. I can see their point: the word has “mock” in it. So, perhaps call your celebration Alcohol-free Week, Non-alcohol Week, or Zero-ABV Week.

Either way, this is the time to dial in your zero-proof menu.

January 15: National Strawberry Ice Cream Day

Celebrating this holiday with the Peach Melba is a great way to get the most out of promoting your guests’ favorite new dessert. All you have to do is serve your Peach Melba with, you guessed it, strawberry ice cream instead of the standard vanilla.

January 20: National Cheese Lover’s Day

Getting creative to celebrate this holiday will take some effort. However, if you nail it, this promotion can be recurring and become a sought-after experience.

Wine, beer, and spirits pair with a vast array of cheeses. You can create an entire tasting experience, pairing specific cheeses with a curated selection of wines, beers, whiskeys, or other spirits. Check out this guide for pairing ideas.

January 20: National Use Your Gift Card Day

I don’t usually double up on holidays for this monthly KRG Hospitality feature, but here we are.

If your business offers gift cards, this is the day to encourage people to come in and redeem them. Send a targeted email campaign, include a link to your reservation system, and you’ll have an excellent way to track how many gift cards you can expect to show up for redemption.

January 25: Clashing Clothes Day

Why should October and December get all the dress-up fun? There’s no reason your guests have to pull out all the stops for Ugly Christmas Sweater gatherings and then wait another year to do it again.

If you pull this off well and make it a “thing,” you and your team can own Clashing Clothes Day and make it an annual promotion.

January 30: National Croissant Day

The humble but delicious, flaky croissant is a tasty canvas. Sure, you can just offer croissants, but what about going harder and offering an array of croissant sandwiches or desserts?

Image: Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels

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Taco Bell Leveraging Subscriptions & LTOs

Taco Bell Leveraging Subscriptions & LTOs

by David Klemt

Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries

Not for the first time, Taco Bell is showing the industry the power of offering fan-favorite limited-time offers and leveraging subscriptions.

These days, everything seems to be subscription-based. We stream shows and movies via subscriptions. We can have food, clothing, gadgets, collectibles, and knick-knacks delivered to us by subcription.

Car features like heated seats, remote engine start, and self-driving? Subscriptions. Want to use software we used to buy once and install? Now we’re paying monthly to use it (or up front for a “discounted” yearly fee).

So, why should people find it odd to subscribe to one of their favorite restaurants? If the value is there for a consumer it’s no different than paying a monthly fee for other products and services to which they subscribe.

Clearly, Taco Bell has an acute understanding of people’s comfort with subscriptions. For many consumers, they’re the norm, just part of their daily routine.

As evidence, I introduce Exibit A, the Taco Lover’s Pass.

What makes this subscription noteworthy is the fact that it’s only a few years old, and it’s not even a permanent subscription. As Taco Bell Rewards members know all too well, only they can cop a Taco Lover’s Pass, and it only comes available every so often.

Most times, members have just one day to grab a pass. However, people had two whole days to decide the last time it became available.

And now, Exhibit B, the Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass.

An LTO Subscription and Item

Look, tens of millions of people love tacos. So, it’s logical that the Taco Lover’s Pass is so successful.

And if the past several years have shown us anything, millions of people also love Nacho Fries. The LTO menu item first appeared in Taco Bell restaurants in 2018. A few years later, in 2021, the Taco Lover’s Pass was tested in Arizona.

Why wouldn’t we eventually see a Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass, given the hype that follows every reintroduction of this popular item? Taco Bell has mastered the art of the LTO and the subscription. More specifically, they’ve mastered the recurring subscription. Remember, their passes aren’t permanent offerings.

Further, the iconic QSR also understands the power of the “drop.” At this point, it seems as though Taco Bell has noticed the rabid stir a limited-edition shoe or clothing drop can create for the fashion industry, studied it, and adapted it to foodservice.

With that said, the last Taco Lover’s Pass was accompanied by a menu item drop: the Toasted Breakfast Taco. If you think the Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass also ushered in an LTO, you’re correct.

The first-ever Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass comes along with the limited-time-only offer of Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries.

Take the Nacho Fries, slather them in a sauce of melted mozzarella, monterey pepper jack, and cheddar cheeses, add Taco Bell nacho cheese and chipotle sauce, and toss on some marinated steak. There you go—Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries. They’re just $4.99 while supplies last, and there’s a spicy version made with jalapeños.

It’s no surprise that Taco Bell BrandVue’s most-loved Mexican restaurant brand, and number eight on their overall list of most-loved restaurant brands.


Loyalty and rewards programs, subscription services, hyped LTO menu drops… These aren’t the exclusive domain of global chain restaurants.

Independent operators can absolutely leverage LTOs and subscriptions. Moreover, indies can do so with as much—if not more—specificity. Independent and regional chain operators tend to be far more nimble than their large chain counterparts.

After all, it’s much easier to implement change in one or a handful of restaurants than it is hundreds or thousands of locations. In theory, single-unit operators also know their loyal guests on a more intimate level. Where that’s the case, they should know what levers to pull to generate interest and encourage repeat visits.

It’s no small task to create a subscription program, let alone a free-to-use-but-engaging, branded rewards program. And that’s to say nothing of coming up with menu item so powerful that taking it away for months at a time is a feasible, profitable thing to do. Although, if you’ve shrunk your menu and eliminated a decent food or drink performer, you may have somewhere to start.

With time and thoughtful consideration, independent and regional operators can absolutely nail rewards, subscriptions, and LTOs.

Image: Taco Bell

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Program for Unique Holidays: June 2023

Program for Unique Holidays: June 2023

by David Klemt

"Think about things differently" neon sign

Do you want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Change how you think about your June holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and this month is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to esoteric.

Pay attention to the “weird” or unique holidays to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing? Why program only around the same holidays as everyone else?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, strange or otherwise. Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

You’ll find suggestions for promotions below. However, the idea behind our monthly holiday promotions roundup is to inspire you and your team to get creative and come up with unique programming ideas.

For our May 2023 holidays list, click here.

June 3: National Repeat Day

This holiday is the perfect time to encourage guests to buy the ever-important second drink. Likewise, it’s the right day for encouraging people to order a dish or two to take home.

June 8: World Oceans Day

Leaders around the world are committed to the 30×30 initiative: protecting 30 percent of our oceans, waterways, and land by 2030. World Oceans Day is about focusing on this initiative, which people can do, in part, by filling out this short survey.

You and your guests can also support the oceans and conservation efforts by supporting brands like Gray Whale Gin. This award-winning gin is produced with sustainable, ethically, and locally-procured ingredients. Additionally, Gray Whale supports Oceana and 1% for the Planet by donating a portion of their proceeds.

June 10: National Black Cow Day

For those who may not know, a Black Cow is a float. It’s incredibly simple to make: drop a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a mug, add root beer.

Of course, you can also get creative with the Black Cow. One way is to make an adult version, perhaps with a vodka like Vodkow, or a cream liqueur like Vodkow Cream. Another option is to feature craft root beer and local vanilla ice cream.

June 13: National Kitchen Klutzes of America Day

Look, some people just aren’t great cooks. Some aren’t good in the kitchen. In fact, some aren’t even mediocre when it comes to cooking—they’re complete disasters.

Luckily, you probably have a kitchen inside your venue. So, give the not-so-great cooks in your area a reprieve from cooking with excellent lunch and dinner LTOs.

June 14: National Bourbon Day

Hey, do you have bourbon? At the risk of being too assumptive, I bet you do. Guess what you should do on this holiday.

June 16: National Take Back the Lunch Break Day

What a perfect day to motivate people to have lunch in your venue. It’s also a great day to motivate people to order delivery, carryout or pickup from you.

June 21: National Daylight Appreciation Day

This holiday does exactly what it says on the tin, as they say: it celebrates daylight. Venues that take advantage of sunlight—great windows, garage-style roll-up doors, amazing patios—should do what they can to entice guests to visit in the morning and afternoon. So, small-bite and lunch LTOs and promotions; sessionable beer, wine, and cocktails; and healthy, refreshing zero-proof beverages are the order of the day.

June 26: National Coconut Day

Summer and coconut go hand in hand. An LTO menu that shines a light on summery drinks and bites is the perfect way to celebrate the coconut.

Feel free to rile up guests by asking them a “simple” question: Is a coconut a fruit, a nut, a seed, or a drupe?

June 27: National Onion Day

Onion rings. Onion dip. Bacon-onion bites. Onion pinwheels… And those are just appetizers. The humble onion is, as we all know, a powerhouse in the kitchen. For some, onions are also cocktail garnishes.

I think you know what to do on National Onion Day.

June 28: Tau Day

For the most part, we’re taught in school that Pi—a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter—is rounded to 3.14. Pi Day is March 14 each year and the holiday (and mathematical constant) tends to get the meme treatment.

Well, some believe Pi is incorrect. Instead, these people use the constant Tau, which is a circle’s circumference divided by its radius. Tau, with a value of 6.28, is celebrated on June 28. One of the simplest ways to celebrate this holiday is to enjoy twice the amount of pie as one would normally. So, a smart promotion that celebrates Tau Day could be one that encourages couples to come in to enjoy two slices of pie for dessert.

Image: Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels

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We ask Bard to Write Cocktail Menus

We ask Bard to Write Cocktail Menus

by David Klemt

Red cocktail on white shelf

Asking Google’s Bard chatbot to write a couple cocktail menus—including recipes and prices—delivers some interesting results.

To be honest, by “interesting” I mean “shrug-inducing.” None of the menus are what I would deem creative.

Think about the basic cocktails you expect to see on any menu and you’ll have an idea of what to expect below.

Are you able to help restaurant and bar operators create their menus?

Yes, I can help restaurant and bar operators create their menus. I can access and process information from the real world through Google Search and keep my response consistent with search results. For example, if you ask me to create a menu for a restaurant that serves Italian food, I can research popular Italian dishes and ingredients, and then create a menu that incorporates those dishes and ingredients. I can also help you to price your menu, and to create marketing materials for your menu.

Here are some tips for creating a menu that is both appealing and profitable:

  • Choose a theme or concept for your menu. This will help you to narrow down your choices and to create a menu that is cohesive.
  • Research popular dishes and ingredients. What are people eating in other restaurants? What are the latest trends?
  • Create a menu that is both affordable and profitable. You want to make sure that you are charging enough to cover your costs, but you also want to make sure that your prices are not too high.
  • Use high-quality ingredients. This will help to ensure that your food tastes good and that your customers come back for more.
  • Be creative and innovative. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new dishes and ingredients.
  • Promote your menu. Use social media, print advertising, and other marketing channels to get the word out about your menu.

Please write me a cocktail menu with ten creative drinks for a modern steakhouse—including prices—located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Sure, here is a cocktail menu with ten creative drinks for a modern steakhouse located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with prices:

1. The Old Fashioned

A classic American cocktail made with whiskey, sugar, and bitters.

  • 2 oz. Canadian Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 4 dashes bitters
  • Garnish: orange twist
  • Price: $15

2. The Manhattan

A classic American cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.

  • 2 oz. Canadian Whiskey
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Garnish: cherry
  • Price: $18

3. The Margarita

A classic Mexican cocktail made with tequila, lime juice, and triple sec.

  • 2 oz. Canadian Tequila
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Price: $14

4. The Daiquiri

A classic Cuban cocktail made with rum, lime juice, and simple syrup.

  • 2 oz. Canadian Rum
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Price: $16

5. The Cosmopolitan

A refreshing and flavorful cocktail made with vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau, and lime juice.

  • 2 oz. Canadian Vodka
  • 2 oz. cranberry juice
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Price: $17

6. The Sex on the Beach

A fruity and refreshing cocktail made with vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and orange juice.

  • 2 oz. Canadian Vodka
  • 1 oz. peach schnapps
  • 2 oz. cranberry juice
  • 2 oz. orange juice
  • Garnish: orange slice
  • Price: $18

7. The Bellini

A refreshing and flavorful cocktail made with prosecco, peach puree, and simple syrup.

  • 4 oz. prosecco
  • 2 oz. peach puree
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • Garnish: peach slice
  • Price: $19

8. The Kir Royal

A refreshing and flavorful cocktail made with prosecco and crème de cassis.

  • 4 oz. prosecco
  • 1 oz. crème de cassis
  • Garnish: lemon twist
  • Price: $20

9. The Mimosa

A refreshing and flavorful cocktail made with champagne and orange juice.

  • 4 oz. champagne
  • 4 oz. orange juice
  • Garnish: orange slice
  • Price: $21

10. The Bloody Mary

A spicy and flavorful cocktail made with vodka, tomato juice, and spices.

  • 2 oz. Canadian Vodka
  • 4 oz. tomato juice
  • 1 oz. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. hot sauce
  • Garnish: celery stalk
  • Price: $22

These cocktails are sure to please your guests and add a touch of sophistication to your steakhouse.

Please write me a cocktail menu with ten creative drinks for a modern Italian restaurant—including prices—located in Las Vegas, Nevada, off the Strip.

Here is a cocktail menu with ten creative drinks for a modern Italian restaurant located in Las Vegas, Nevada, off the Strip:

1. The Gondolier

A refreshing and flavorful cocktail made with prosecco, Aperol, and lemon juice.

  • 2 oz. prosecco
  • 1 oz. Aperol
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
  • Club soda
  • Garnish: lemon twist
  • Price: $15

2. The Martini

A classic Italian cocktail made with gin and dry vermouth.

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • Garnish: lemon twist
  • Price: $17

3. The Negroni

A bitter and refreshing cocktail made with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: orange twist
  • Price: $19

4. The Spritz

A refreshing and light cocktail made with prosecco, Aperol, and club soda.

  • 3 oz. prosecco
  • 1 oz. Aperol
  • 4 oz. club soda
  • Garnish: orange twist
  • Price: $15

5. The Americano

A refreshing and light cocktail made with Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda.

  • 2 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 4 oz. club soda
  • Garnish: orange twist
  • Price: $17

6. The Limoncello

A sweet and refreshing cocktail made with limoncello, prosecco, and club soda.

  • 2 oz. limoncello
  • 3 oz. prosecco
  • 4 oz. club soda
  • Garnish: lemon twist
  • Price: $15

7. The Margarita

A classic Mexican cocktail made with tequila, lime juice, and triple sec.

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Price: $19

8. The Daiquiri

A classic Cuban cocktail made with rum, lime juice, and simple syrup.

  • 2 oz. rum
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Price: $21

9. The Old Fashioned

A classic American cocktail made with whiskey, sugar, and bitters.

  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 4 dashes bitters
  • Garnish: orange twist
  • Price: $23

10. The Manhattan

A classic American cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.

  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Garnish: cherry


The first thing I’ll say is that these menus are…fine. There’s nothing wrong with populating a cocktail menu with classics. After all, classics are the go-to for a large portion of guests.

However, I wouldn’t call any of the recipes above creative. And I certainly don’t think they’d blow anyone’s mind. I also call into question some of the specs. For example, a Negroni “should be” a 1:1:1 ratio.

Then there’s the Bloody Mary for a Toronto steakhouse. I’m not trying to speak for an entire population but that should be a Caesar. Additionally, this family of drinks should come with an array of add-ons for customization and personalization.

And what about that $18 Sex on the Beach? I don’t think I’d ever recommend that for an upscale steakhouse. If anything, I’d suggest a Porn Star Martini instead.

I don’t know what Bard would recommend for pricing the Manhattan since the chatbot didn’t include that detail. I’m guessing somewhere between $20 and $23.

Speaking of pricing, it’s fair to assume that Bard aggregated menu prices, averaged them, and spat out the results of its calculations. That may seem helpful but operators should bear a few things in mind when determining pricing:

  • ingredient costs;
  • labor costs;
  • target margins;
  • what specific markets and target guests will tolerate and sustain; and
  • dynamic menu pricing to address fluctuating costs.

Going back to the drinks themselves, it’s important for operators to consider the trends toward premiumization and luxury; signature cocktails; “owning” a specific drink or family of drinks; and speed, consistency, and presentation.

Artificial intelligence can tell you what’s trending online. But can it create real-world cocktail menus that will attract guests, drive traffic, and generate revenue? In my opinion, no—that’s still the realm of experienced and creative bar professionals.

Image: Timothé Durand on Unsplash

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Real-world Menu Tips from Chef Brian Duffy

Real-world Menu Tips from Chef Brian Duffy

by David Klemt

Two restaurant food menus

I wonder what Chef Duffy would say about these menus.

Call it an education session, call it a workshop, one of the best features of the Bar & Restaurant Expo is live menu feedback from Chef Brian Duffy.

This is certainly true of the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo. During this year’s BRE (formerly Nightclub & Bar Show, or NCB), Chef Duffy delivered well over two hours of real-world menu feedback.

To be sure, BRE educational programming is always beneficial. Attendees who take the time to plan their schedules to include education sessions will take invaluable tips back to their businesses.

However, watching in real time as Chef Duffy critiques real menus submitted by BRE attendees provides insight that will impact the guest experience and success of a restaurant or bar immediately.

When delivering his feedback, Chef Duffy is unacquainted with the menus. He’s also unfiltered. So, attendees of these sessions are provided a window to Chef Duffy’s professional opinions, on the fly, in real time.

Take, for example, this blunt statement: “If you serve tilapia in your restaurant, you suck.” Before anyone has a conniption, Chef Duffy is referring to unethically farm-raised tilapia that’s often exposed to waste.

Technical Difficulties

Due to unforeseen AV issues, Chef Duffy was unable to use the large screens in the room to review menus for 30 to 40 minutes.

Now, some speakers may be shaken when encountering such a technical difficulty. This isn’t the case for Chef Duffy. In fact, all in attendance from the start of his session were lucky enough to gain insights beyond menu design because of the AV issues.

First, we all gained some insight into Chef Duffy’s consulting process. When engaged for restaurant consultation, he watches an evening service. Next day, he’s in your kitchen at 10:00 AM. What he sees in your kitchen tells him what’s happening throughout your restaurant. By the way, if he encounters just two spelling errors on your menu, he’s done reviewing it—you need a fresh start.

Second, inventory. Chef Duffy assumes you keep eleven percent of your overall revenue on your shelves. So, if you’re generating $100,000 each month, your shelves hold $11,000 of product. When reviewing your financial situation, take a look at that number for your own restaurant or bar.

Third, executive chefs versus head chefs. Chef Duffy has been on the ground for more than 100 restaurant openings. He has interviewed countless chefs. Have you ever wondered about the difference between an executive chef and a head chef? Knowledge of the financial aspects of running a kitchen. Without it, someone’s not an executive chef—they’re a head chef. Executive chefs know (and in theory can be trusted with) finances; head chefs make sure the brigade comes to work on time.

Finally, a cost-reduction tip. When you speak with your food reps, ask about DWO items: “Discontinued When Out.” You may be able to get your hands on some great items for a fraction of the cost.

Pricing Tips

Since we’ve looked at costs, let’s take a look at pricing.

Determining pricing effectively involves more than just gathering intel about your competitors. Chef Duffy suggests looking over your entire menu and committing to a pricing hard deck.

For example, “I’ll never sell a starter for less than X dollars.” You commit to never selling a entree for lower than a certain dollar amount. If you breach that promise, you may damage your brand.

Staying on the topic of pricing, don’t take advantage of your guests. Chef Duffy absolutely believes you can charge premium prices—but only for innovation. How do you know if a menu item is innovative? If it has made its way to major chain restaurants and you’re not doing anything unique to your version, it’s not innovative.

In terms of layout and design, don’t “lead” guests to prices with dots, dashes, or solid lines. Just place the price next to the item and move on.

Menu Tips

Another crucial tip that really should go without saying but, well, here we are, is proofreading. Want to make sure your menu is correct in a fun way? Throw a proofreading party. Invite ten of your VIP guests, gather your staff, invite some friends and family if you won’t be distracted, and ask for honest feedback.

Of course, you can elevate this event by serving new menu items tapas or family style to your VIPs. Brand-new restaurant yet to open? I suggest having the proofreading party with staff, friends, and family.

Keep in mind that menu real estate is valuable. Does a section of your menu come with identical accompaniments? Explain that at the top of section rather than including them in every. single. item. separately. Yes, this happened during the live 2023 BRE reads.

Chef Duffy would like you to stop putting specials on your menu. Again, menu real estate is valuable. If you can spare the room for specials, are they really special? Instead, your servers should know the day’s specials and share them with your guests from memory. And speaking of memory, upselling really only works if your staff knows the menu backward and forward.

Oh, and Chef Duffy would love it if you’d stop doing truffle fries if you’re not going to use premium products.

Your Menu Isn’t “Just” a Menu

Obviously, I haven’t shared every one of Chef Duffy’s menu tips. However, the above should serve as more than enough to motivate you to review your own menu with a critical eye.

In fact, you should be inspired to have your leadership, BoH, and FoH teams review the menu as well.

Yes, spelling matters. Yes, grammar matters. And yes, every detail and bit of menu real estate matters. This is because, simply put, your menu is more than a list of items for sale.

As Chef Duffy says, “Your menu is your calling card, it’s just that simple.” He would also tell you that the first place people encounter your business is online after a search. So, your website is your showcase. But your menu? That’s your billboard on the freeway, as he says.

QR codes may have been the standard from 2020 to 2022. We all know why. But for the most part, with the exception of QSRs and LSRs, people want to hold your menu. It’s a tactile experience and true engagement.

Menu design, like your website’s design, matters. Don’t believe me? I have two framed menus on my office wall, and they’re not from client concepts.

To learn more about Chef Brian Duffy, visit his website here. And, of course, make sure to follow him on Instagram. To listen to his Bar Hacks podcast episodes, click here for episode 33 and here for episode 53.

Image: Catherine Heath on Unsplash

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Global Trends 2023: Technomic

Global Trends 2023: Technomic

by David Klemt

Shawarma stacked with fire in the background

Not content to focus solely on North America, foodservice research firm Technomic is predicting foodservice trends that will span the globe in 2023.

As the firm points out themselves, making predictions is a best-guess proposition. Many of Technomic’s 2022 predictions for Canada, the USA, and the globe have proven true. However, a handful of their trend predictions have yet to manifest.

Further, not all trends will work for all operators and their concepts. Chasing every passing fad or trend is great if you like to watch your costs spiral. Doing so is also an excellent way to confuse guests and stress staff.

So, when considering any trend, make sure it works with your concept, has some staying power, and will resonate with your guests. Speaking to that last point, this is one reason it’s crucial to collect guest data. Making important menu and guest-impacting operational decisions without data just doesn’t make sense.

When you’re done with this article, take a look at our examination of Technomic’s other predictions. The firm’s Canadian predictions are here. And you can read the American trends by clicking this link.

For your own copy of Technomic’s international trends report, click here.


For 2023, Technomic is making predictions that certainly appear plausible. A number of them pertain to operations.

Kicking things off, sustainability. Driven in part by the global impact of the pandemic, the health of our planet is top of mind for many people.

For example, Canada’s single-use plastics ban is now in effect. England plans to move forward with a similar ban by October of this year.

Alongside such bans, Technomic believes operators—small independents and global chains alike—will implement entire sustainability strategies. These will range “from packaging and restaurant operations to marketing and menu development.”

Does your concept have a dedicated pickup window? Perhaps a takeaway counter? Maybe even a drive-thru? If not, 2023 may be the year you make that change. Not only that, you’ll likely want to position them front and center.

Per Technomic, many consumers are done with delivery. From rising costs outweighing convenience to delivery failures, pickup may become more appealing. Pickup is still convenient, it’s less expensive, and the consumer is in control.

Additionally, many people are well aware of how costly third-party platforms are to operators. In fact, Technomic identifies these platforms and their fees as “the biggest industry villain” of 2023.


One of Technomic’s predictions is particularly enticing: Lebanese street foods. To clarify, the firm believes all manner of street foods from around the globe will perform well in 2023.

However, they feel Lebanon’s street foods will stand out from the rest. So, think shawarma, labneh, kibbe, and pickled vegetables. That last item, by the way, follows Technomic’s prediction that pickling and fermenting will be hot trends in the US and Canada.

Of course, there are other items that Technomic thinks will shine in 2023. If the firm is correct, there’s a new “holy trinity” to keep an eye on and consider for your menu: sushi, poke, and ceviche. According to Technomic, each performs very well when it comes to takeout.

Interestingly, the research firm suggests that this particular holy trinity will spawn new virtual brands. If Technomic’s predictions prove accurate, some of these brands will focus on fried chicken or plant-based versions.

Speaking to that last point, Technomic is predicting that plant-based will “evolve” in 2023. This evolution will focus on more traditional meat counterparts. Providing examples, Technomic suggests that avocado, modern takes on black bean patties, cauliflower, tofu, tempeh, and seitan will be this year’s plant-based rock stars.

Are this year’s 2023 Technomic predictions going to prove accurate? It’s far too early to tell. However, one thing I can say with confidence is this: their predictions are rooted deeply in data. When Technomic makes a “guess,” it’s always an informed one.

Click here to read Technomic’s report in its entirety.

Image: Slashio Photography on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality Restaurants & Cafes, 2023 icon

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Canada’s Top 2022 DoorDash Orders

Canada’s Top 2022 DoorDash Orders

by David Klemt

Burgers, French fries and milkshakes

Operators curious about the most popular delivery items in 2022 will be happy to learn that DoorDash’s year-end report is ready for viewing.

Those who want to compare it to predictions from several sources earlier this year can click here. The DoorDash Canada report can also be compared to consumer trends in Canada revealed back in October.

Before we jump in, I’m not detailing the DoorDash report in its entirety here. To review the entire report, please click here.

Instead, I’ll be sharing the top takeaways in terms of top menu items; top cuisines; and top items by province.

Speaking of provinces, a word to New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and the Yukon. Please don’t break out the pitchforks and come for me for not including you in this article. DoorDash’s report only covers data from six provinces—I didn’t leave you out intentionally.

Top DoorDash Cuisines in Canada

  1. American
  2. Mexican
  3. Japanese
  4. Thai
  5. Mediterranean
  6. Indian
  7. Chinese
  8. Italian
  9. Korean
  10. Filipino

Top DoorDash Items in Canada

  1. Burgers & Fries
  2. Fried Chicken
  3. Poutine
  4. Sushi Rolls
  5. Chicken Wings
  6. Burritos
  7. Chicken Rice Bowl
  8. Shawarma Wraps
  9. Curry
  10. Pad Thai

I think there’s one key takeaway that stands out in regards to this list. Notably, it appears that while chicken isn’t number one, it’s undeniably popular amongst Canadian DoorDash users.

In fact, according to DoorDash data, chicken reigns supreme in British Columbia. When you reach the province-specific sections below, you’ll see how powerful the cravings in BC are for chicken.

Top DoorDash Late-night Items

Again, chicken rules the DoorDash roost in this category.

  1. Chicken Nuggets
  2. Fries
  3. Poutine
  4. Chicken Wings
  5. Chicken Burgers
  6. Apple Pie
  7. Cheeseburger
  8. Spinach & Cheese Dip
  9. Chocolate Fudge Sundae
  10. Crispy Chicken

Top DoorDash Items: British Columbia

  1. Burrito Bowl
  2. Szechuan Chicken Lettuce Wraps
  3. Butter Chicken
  4. California Roll
  5. Crispy Chicken Sandwich
  6. Tofu Bowl
  7. Chocolate Chip Cookies

Top DoorDash Items: Ontario

  1. Cheeseburger
  2. Coffee
  3. Burrito Bowls
  4. Chicken Shawarma
  5. Crispy Chicken
  6. Bagels
  7. Pad Thai
  8. Beef Patty
  9. Pizza
  10. Onion Rings

Top DoorDash Items:Alberta

  1. Spinach and Cheese Dip
  2. Chicken Cheddar Sandwich
  3. Chilli Chicken
  4. Kale Salad
  5. Margarita Pizza
  6. Hot Apple Turnover

Top DoorDash Items: Québec

  1. Poutine
  2. Cappuccino
  3. Pad Thai
  4. Steak and Cheese
  5. Croissant
  6. Dumplings
  7. Chips
  8. Tacos

Top DoorDash Items: Saskatchewan

Interestingly, a beverage item holds the top spot in Saskatchewan.

  1. Bubble Tea
  2. Pepperoni Pizza
  3. Pork Bun
  4. Crispy Pork
  5. Garlic Bread
  6. Pasta

Top DoorDash Items: Manitoba

  1. Fries
  2. Butter Chicken
  3. Red Velvet Cake
  4. Poke Bowl
  5. Shawarma Wrap

As I stated in Wednesday’s article detailing Grubhub and Uber Eats’ reports for the US, we believe operators should take as much control over their restaurants and bars as possible. At KRG Hospitality, that means implementing direct delivery if it makes sense: ease of use, delivery capabilities, favorable costs, etc.

It’s also helpful to know what consumers in your area are craving and ordering. Such information can provide a useful baseline for many concepts’ menu development.

Image: John Fornander on Unsplash

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Grubhub and Uber Reveal Top 2022 Items

Grubhub and Uber Reveal Top 2022 Items

by David Klemt

Chef pointing burrito halves toward camera

Grubhub’s 2022 Delivered and Uber Eats’ 2022 Uber Eats Cravings reports are live and there’s one surprise that’s immediately evident.

The top food item lists for both platforms make one thing clear right away: the chicken sandwich is no longer sitting on its throne.

Instead, as far as the data for these two delivery powerhouses show, there’s a new food item king. More compellingly, this menu item holds the throne on both platforms.

Now, I’m not suggesting the fried chicken sandwich is in the dungeon. In fact, the popular sandwich causing “wars” in the QSR space is still holdings it own. Indeed, the sandwich is still in the top five overall at Uber Eats.

Shockingly, it’s not in the top five overall at Grubhub. However, the fried chicken sandwich is among the top five Grubhub lunch and late-night orders.

So, which menu item wears the crown for 2022 in the kingdoms of Grubhub and Uber Eats? The burrito.

That’s awesome news for most operators. Much like the humble but mighty chicken sandwich, concepts can put their signature spin on a burrito. In fact, most concepts can put multiple signature spins on the new king of delivery items. One way to approach this would be to create a permanent signature and then seasonal LTOs.

Top 10 Grubhub Items

In 2022, the fried chicken sandwich only clinches the number seven spot at Grubhub.

Just like Uber Eats, cheeseburgers and pizza outperform the chicken sandwich.

  1. Burrito (bowl or regular)
  2. Cheeseburger
  3. Cheese Pizza
  4. Pad Thai
  5. Chicken Quesadilla
  6. California Roll
  7. Fried Chicken Sandwich
  8. Caesar Salad
  9. Chicken Tikka Masala
  10. Boneless Wings

Top 5 Grubhub Breakfast Items

  1. Sausage, Egg + Cheese Sandwich
  2. Donuts
  3. Sausage Burrito
  4. Bagel with Cream Cheese
  5. Muffins

Top 5 Grubhub Lunch Items

  1. Burrito
  2. Cheeseburger
  3. Fried Chicken Sandwich
  4. Cheese Pizza
  5. Chicken Quesadilla

Top 5 Grubhub Late-night Items

  1. Chicken Quesadilla
  2. Fried Chicken Sandwich
  3. Cheeseburger
  4. Mozzarella Sticks
  5. Cheese Pizza

As we see, the chicken quesadilla does some heavy lifting at Grubhub. The item holds the number five spot overall, at lunch, and during the late-night daypart.

Top 10 Uber Eats Combos

For their 2022 report, Uber Eats takes a different approach than Grubhub. Instead of just listing individual items, the platform identifies their top combos.

  1. Burrito + Cheese
  2. French Fries + Salt
  3. Cheeseburger + Diced Onions
  4. Chicken Sandwich + Fries
  5. Breakfast Sandwich + American Cheese
  6. Soup + Bread
  7. Pancakes + Sausage
  8. Pizza + Mozzarella
  9. Salad + Balsamic Vinaigrette
  10. Quesadilla + Sour Cream

Most “Unexpected” Uber Eats Combos

  • Ham + Cream Cheese
  • Fruit Roll Up + Hot Cheetos
  • Pickles + Whipped Cream
  • Popcorn + Pickle Juice
  • Dark Chocolate + Tomato Salad
  • Pizza + Applesauce
  • Sushi + Ranch
  • Peanut Butter + Pizza
  • Cheese + Martinis
  • Watermelon + Mustard

To read both reports in their entirety, click here for Grubhub and here for Uber Eats. There are more insights, including beverages and beverage combos.

Of course, longtime readers and our clients know where we stand on third-party delivery platforms. Ideally, operators should take as much control over their business as they can. For us, that means implementing direct delivery as long as it’s feasible and incurs lower costs than third-party.

We view delivery platform reports as menu development resources. It’s always wise to keep up to date on consumer and food trends, after all.

Image: Kamila Bairam on Pexels

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Wendy’s Looks to Ghosts for Growth

Wendy’s Looks to Ghosts for Growth

by David Klemt

Wendy's fast food restaurant exterior and sign

Wendy’s is the latest foodservice company to announce plans to open ghost kitchens in Canada, the US and the UK.

The fast-food giant’s scheme is large-scale and part of an expansive growth strategy.

Per the company, Wendy’s plans to open 700 ghost kitchens.

Embracing the Trend

Here’s a question for you: Do you hear and read the word “pivot” or the phrase “ghost kitchen” more often these days?

Ghost kitchens seem to be the pivot of choice for restaurant groups and enterprising tech companies looking to leverage the next big thing. (There, a sentence with both “pivot” and “ghost kitchen” in it,)

The trend also appears more often than not to be the domain of Big Business.

Former Uber executive Travis Kalanick is the founder of CloudKitchens. DoorDash is also entering the ghost kitchen space, running a trial in California to see if pursuing the idea is viable.

Now, enter Wendy’s, not exactly a mom-and-pop shop in the restaurant space.

Ghost vs. Virtual Kitchen

We don’t revel in the semantics game, necessarily. But we know people are going to refer to Wendy’s ghost locations as “virtual” kitchens as well.

However, ghost kitchens and virtual kitchens have unique definitions and characteristics.

Wendy’s isn’t creating a new brand with new items they’re preparing in their existing brick-and-mortar locations. Nor do they plan to do so with their new locations under constructions currently.

Were that the case, their strategy would be a virtual kitchen plan.

Instead, the 700 locations will be separate facilities without storefronts. Also, the units will focus solely on delivery, leveraging on-demand consumer behavior.

So, the lack of storefront is arguably the greatest defining characteristic of a ghost kitchen.

Conversely, a virtual kitchen operates in a location with a storefront. However, the brand on offer exists online and not in the brick-and-mortar world of an established brand. In essence, an existing brand is offering a brand that they don’t want to dilute what they’ve already built.

That’s a Lot of Ghosts

Per reporting, Wendy’s is joining forces with Reef Technology to open and operate their ghost kitchens.

At least 50 such locations are in the works to open this year. The other several hundred locations will open between 2022 and 2025.

That means we should see more than 150 Wendy’s ghost kitchens going live per year across Canada, the US and the UK.

Partnering with Reef Technology is an interesting and telling maneuver. Reef, per their website, focuses on “urbanization” and reshaping “our urban infrastructure.”

And as CEO Todd Penelow stated last week, Wendy’s doesn’t isn’t strong in urban areas. The vision for Wendy’s new strategy is to penetrate urban markets, adding new stores and new franchisees as the brand moves forward.

Should things go according to plan, Wendy’s expects to expand from 6,500 units worldwide to somewhere between 8,500 and 9,000 in 2025.

Image: Michael Form from Pixabay