5 Tips for Solid Summer Menu Planning

5 Tips for Solid Summer Menu Planning

Summer is a time to be outdoors, enjoying the warm weather and the sunshine, so it’s essential to have food that matches low-key vibe. And a summer menu takes proper planning. We sat down with a few culinary professionals to find the scoop on mastering seasonal dining. 

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Summer Menu Trends: California Pizza Kitchen Adds Strawberry-Focused Menu Offerings

Summer Menu Trends: California Pizza Kitchen Adds Strawberry-Focused Menu Offerings

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

The casual-dining chain has announced that they will be celebrating summer by incorporating strawberries into the upcoming season’s menu. 

Some of the new berry-tastic, made-to-order menu items include strawberry margaritas and salads featuring the fan-favorite fruit and the “freshest seasonal ingredients.”

“We love summer at California Pizza Kitchen when some of our favorite produce, like sweet strawberries and watermelon, are at their freshest and juiciest,” said Brian Sullivan, SVP of Culinary Innovation at California Pizza Kitchen in a press release. 

“Refresh your taste buds with our newest seasonal dishes like the California Fields Salad, with fresh strawberries, juicy watermelon, fresh basil, pistachios, feta and champagne vinaigrette atop crisp field greens. Under 650 calories, the California Fields Salad is deliciously light and refreshing on a warm summer day. Sweeten your meal with the return of our seasonal Strawberry Shortcake, a treat that’s reminiscent of those carefree childhood summer days, or cool down with a hand-shaken Strawberry Lime Margarita or non-alcoholic Fresh Strawberry Mango Cooler, bursting with fresh strawberry flavor.”

Why Strawberry?

CPK isn’t the only brand to jump on the strawberry bandwagon this season, McDonald’s recently announced that their quick-serve stores will now be offering new menu options featuring this red fruit. 

Strawberry is consistently a consumer favorite. 94% of households consume this fruit. With the health movement continuing to spread across the country, consumers are gravitating to fresh produce.

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Dairy Queen Appeals to Working Millennials With New Coffee Products

Dairy Queen Appeals to Working Millennials With New Coffee Products

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

The soft serve ice cream and fast food chain, Dairy Queen rolled out new iced coffee products last week, just in time for summer.

This is the first time the brand will be offering iced coffee and frappés nationally in the US. This launch is paired with the Hardest Working Happy Hour campaign which is a daily promotion during the week with drink specials from 2 to 5 pm.

The new iced coffee flavors included Vanilla, Salted Caramel or Mocha and they will be $1 during the weekly happy hour. The Ultimate Frappé favors include Oreo Cookie, Carmel Chip and Midnight Mocha. These beverages will be more expensive at $2 for a size small during the promotional hours. 

“This is our biggest beverage launch ever and happy hour is a very competitive day-part across all restaurant brands. We’ve really differentiated ourselves from other QSR and beverage competitor happy hour programs by creating a stir in our space with variety, value and taste,” said Barry Westrum, executive vice president of Marketing for American Dairy Queen Corporation (ADQ). 

“Our fans want something different and better and at our DQ locations they can now treat themselves to the unbelievable every day. With our Hardest Working Happy Hour, fans will find quality, portable iced coffee DQ Ultimate Frappés and smoothie beverages at a great price and offered in a uniquely DQ way. It’s an extra indulgence during the day that’s perfect as an afternoon on-the-go pick-me-up.”

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Menu Trends: Qdoba Brings Back Mango Salsa for the Summer

Menu Trends: Qdoba Brings Back Mango Salsa for the Summer

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

With seasonal menus becoming more popular in all segments, we will be seeing even more brands experimenting with different ingredients this summer.

Qdoba Mexican Eats (formerly known as Qdoba Mexican Grill) is spicing things up again this summer by bringing back their Mango Salsa for the summer season. Customers can now add the Mango Salsa to every entree for no extra cost. The brand also brought back another fan-favorite, the Mango Salad.

“Mango is once again making its mark at Qdoba. Its bold, refreshing flavor is exactly what summer needs,” said JP Patrick, Culinary Director at Qdoba in a press release.  “Every year, our guests rave about the return of Mango Salsa. We always want our guests to mix and match their favorite mouthwatering flavors, and now they can add Mango Salsa to any entree, at no extra charge.”

The salsa isn’t only made up of mangos either. According to the burrito bowl chain, the “Mango Salsa features a refreshing combination of fresh mangos, cucumbers and red bell peppers.”

Mango season is primarily in the spring and summer and about 70% of total mango distribution is done during this season.

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McDonald’s Hops on Juicing Bandwagon with Berry-tastic Menu Items for Strawberry Month

In honor of national Strawberry month, McDonald’s is appealing to berry lovin’ consumers by releasing a new selection of smoothies, lemonades and yogurt parfaits.

New strawberry themed menu items at McDonald's |  McDonald's

New strawberry themed menu items at McDonald's | McDonald's

Strawberries have been a consumer favorite forever. The California Strawberry commission refers to the berry as “America’s favorite fruit.” With that in mind, along with it being the spring season with summer just around the corner, the quick-serve mogul is promoting new menu items featuring the beloved berry.

These berry-tastic items include- the McCafe’ Strawberry Lemonade, McCafe’ Strawberry Banana Smoothie, McCafe’ Strawberry Mango Smoothie, McCafe’ Frozen Strawberry Lemonade and Fruit’N Yogurt Parfaits.

However, the Strawberry Banana Smoothie and Fruit’N Yogurt Parfait will be the only items available nationwide. The rest will be available only at the brand’s California and/or Chicago stores. Most of the beverages will be available until August, except for the Strawberry Orange Mango Smoothie which will be in the northern California stores until October.

Fresh from the Farm?

Influenced by the farm-to-table movement, McDonald’s is emphasizing the freshness of the hand-picked strawberries from California. “Independent, third party companies inspect every load of strawberries for quality, color, firmness, and character to ensure a great experience when you visit McDonald's,” as stated in the recent press release announcing the brand’s new strawberry focused items.

The strawberries for the smoothies will not be shipped directly though, most of the berries will be made into a strawberry puree’ before being shipped to the stores.

"The beauty of freezing strawberries for McDonald's is that we are able to pick the berries at the absolute peak of ripeness -- locking in all the flavor, color and nutrition by washing, sorting, freezing and packing the berries within 12 hours of them being hand-picked from plants in our growers fields," said Ed Haft, CEO of Sunrise Growers, one of the strawberry suppliers for McDonald's in a recent press release.

Although these items are new, the brand is already one of the largest purchasers of strawberries in the Golden State. California produces over 88% of the nation’s strawberries.

The smoothies are a healthier, though certainly not a healthy option. The existing menu item, the Strawberry McCafe Shake has a whopping 550 calories in a small. While a small Strawberry Banana Smoothie has more than half that with 210 calories. But again, these smoothies are made with fruit juices with added sugars, so these are not the most nutritious of the beverages.

Can the Brand Compete in the Crowded Juice Segment?

Will these beverages be able to compete with the beloved summertime beverages like Starbucks’ Refreshers, which only have 90 calories?

Also are smoothies so 2015? Consumers have been recently gravitating more so to cold pressed juices. But, the smoothie trend is still going strong. It’s important to note, that consumers’ smoothie tastes have evolved. They are more interested in smoothies that are stocked full of superfood ingredients as meal replacements.

McDonalds’ may be incorporating a fan favorite fruit, but is it enough to entice consumers? Especially since more foodies are seeking out smoothies as the on-the-go meal alternative?