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Crave-worthy snacks and appetizers are a perfect companion to the season’s big games, on- or off-premises

Crave-worthy snacks and appetizers are a perfect companion to the season’s big games, on- or off-premises
(Image credit: Image: Idahoan Foods)

Sponsored by Idahoan Foods.

Although many people will choose to watch sports and other events from home this year rather than gather in bars and restaurants, appetizers and snacks can still mean big business for foodservice operators. The key for restaurants is finding easy, versatile appetizers that work well for both dine-in and off-premises — and offer craveable flavors that consumers can’t re-create at home.

Consumers crave comfort foods in the comfort of their homes

More than three-quarters of consumers (77%) said they’re more likely to stay home and watch on-demand TV and videos than they were before the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry report. This uptick in homebound activities coincides with rising demand for takeout, as consumers tire of cooking at home and look to restaurants to provide the flavors they crave. Some 68% of consumers said they’re more likely to purchase takeout food from a restaurant than they were before the pandemic. The drive to order takeout is especially high among millennials, almost three-quarters (73%) of whom said they are more likely to order takeout now than they were pre-pandemic.

For many people, ordering takeout or delivery from a restaurant is an opportunity to enjoy food that feels like a special occasion. About one-third of consumers (32%) are craving variety, seeking out dishes that they don’t have or can’t make at home, according to a Datassential report released last year called “The Road to Recovery: Food and Foodservice After COVID-19.”

Comfort foods are among the most popular dishes calling to consumers: 38% of on-premises and 33% of off-premises customers said their restaurant choices over the next few months will be influenced by whether menus include the comfort foods they crave, the National Restaurant Association survey found.

Versatile pantry staples allow for customization without added costs

To deliver on the variety consumers are looking for while keeping supplies streamlined and margins high, versatility is a must.

“When a chef is looking to limit the number of items in the pantry, they often struggle,” said Richard Hoelzel, corporate executive chef for Idahoan Foodservice. He recommends Idahoan Tater Tumblers Appetizer Mix as a blank canvas that can be used to create comforting dishes with limitless flavor possibilities.

Hoelzel said Tater Tumblers Appetizer Mix is as simple to prepare as frozen appetizers, but its unique format also means it doesn’t take up freezer space and has a long shelf life.

“It is fresh-dried, so when you add water, you have an actual Idaho potato from Idaho,” he said. This simple starting point also makes Tater Tumblers Appetizer Mix perfect for a wide variety of different diners, since it’s vegetarian and gluten free — which can be particularly hard to find when it comes to appetizers. When prepared with no additional ingredients, Tater Tumblers Appetizer Mix creates crispy, golden potato bites that can be served plain or with sauces or toppings. For even more customization, fillings can be mixed in before frying.

“It is a vehicle of taste,” Hoelzel said. “If you have a fan favorite on the menu, such as chipotle chicken, just dice it up and add some roasted hatch chilies and cheese. Now you have an appetizer that takes familiar flavors and makes them into something new, and perfect for sharing with friends.”

Request a free sample of Idahoan Tater Tumblers Appetizer Mix.