Contemporary Bistros Expand Traditional Concept

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The word “bistro” used to conjure up images of France. Now it can be a number of American casual dining concepts. Here’s how you can take advantage of the new American-style.
Salads served at a bistro
©iStockphoto.com/webphotographeer

bistro- The word used to mean a very specific kind of simple French restaurant, but you could say it’s come to define the way so many consumers want to eat today: casual, versatile, affordable, and delicious.

Take The Bistro at Courtyard, Marriott’s in-house dining concept, with its easy-to-like menu of made-to-order breakfasts, sandwiches and burgers, appetizers and shareables, simple entrées, and soups, salads, and desserts, complemented by cocktails, craft beer, and wine by the glass. To meet 24/7 connectivity needs, the Bistro features recharging stations, free Wi-Fi, casual table settings, and media “pods” geared toward on-the-go business travelers who need a quick yet quiet space for an impromptu meeting. There’s even a convenient Bistro to Go program in a number of locations.

And at the University of San Diego, one of several dining locations is Bert’s Bistro, where the menu ranges from barbecue and burgers to hand-rolled sushi and soup and salad bar. An extensive menu of coffee specialties rounds out the hardworking bill of fare.

Of course, it doesn’t need to have bistro in the name to function like a bistro. Consumers, especially those of the millennial kind, have become much more likely to demand mix-and-match variety and all-day versatility in any kind of food service operation they visit, with the option to mix up sushi with a salad for lunch, and breakfast, and a dessert for dinner.

Here are some examples of menu items to consider for your “bistro”:

Food bars – Not just salad bars but any hot or cold self-service or attended stations that allow customers to pick and choose their own “builds,” including baked potato, taco bars, sundae bars, hot dogs and sausages with toppings, jambalaya or paella stations, and mac-and-cheese bars, like this one at Montclair State University, offered on Tuesday nights.

Get Started: It’s easy to offer DIY macaroni and cheese with products from Stouffer’s® and Lean Cuisine® by adding a choice of mix-and-match toppings such as cooked vegetables, chopped bacon, sautéed shrimp, chopped fresh tomatoes and scallions, additional cheese varieties, and more.

Soup of the day – What is more universally loved than a nice bowl of soup? Offering a rotation of different soups addresses this love, as well as providing variety, seasonality, and a means for easily satisfying vegetarians, vegans, and others with special dietary requests.

Did You Know?: Many of Minor’s® Bases are now gluten-free.

All-day breakfast – Although there’s a special art to breakfast cookery, there are many items that don’t require someone to prepare eggs and pancakes to order, including quiches and casseroles, hot and cold cereals, and other prep-ahead specialties. And if you do have a griddle cook anyway, egg sandwiches and the like are quick and satisfying.

Try This: A breakfast pizza topped with scrambled eggs, cheese and Chef-mate® Country Sausage Gravy hits all the requirements for flavor and operational ease, any time of the day or night.

Hot and cold sandwiches – The sandwich has evolved into so much more than a quick lunch to eat on the run. A well-made sandwich, in fact, can be a signature item that satisfies hunger at lunch and beyond.

Condiments make the sandwich - In addition to fresh fillings and distinctive bread, a great sandwich needs a condiment to add flavor and moistness:

Bowls – This versatile new category of menu items encompasses everything from noodle soup and rice bowls to specialties like KFC’s Famous Bowls and the “power bowl” secret menu at Panera—all portable, customizable, and fun.

Protein-enhanced salads – Like many other foods today, the salad has morphed from an appetizer of lettuce, tomatoes, and dressing into a signature menu section that offers a lighter, often highly customizable option to the traditional entrée.

Try This: Offer a large, veggie-packed house salad that can be topped with the customer’s à la carte choice of proteins including chicken, steak, fish, tofu, eggs, and cheese.

Snack items and sides – There’s no doubt that the “small plates” trend has totally changed the way customers dine, and offering an enhanced selection of appetizer- and side item-sized options gives them the flexibility to decide how much and when they want to eat.

Tip: The collection of recipes on the Nestlé Professional website includes many smaller-format items that can be offered as snacks, starters, and side dishes.

Signature desserts – From cupcakes and ice cream specialties to cookies and pies, distinctive desserts represent a surefire way to satisfy guests, both after meals and as snacking opportunities.

Get Started: You can create all kinds of unique desserts using Nestlé® Dessert Ingredients.