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Thirty great ideas: Part 4 in a five-part series

By  Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

OAK BROOK, Ill.-- Large or small, an “a-ha” moment can change your business, your momentum and your morale. Inspired by the ideation stage of the innovation process, Fare has pulled together a list of great ideas from all corners of the foodservice and retail industries.

This collection is meant to inspire action for your next great idea. Whenever you’re feeling creatively stumped, just open this up and start ideating.

Following is the fourth installment of our 30 Great Ideas. Watch for the next issue of Fare Digest for the continuation, and get the March issue of Fare for the complete collection.

Click here for Part 1, here for Part 2, and here for Part 3.

19. Onions Worth Crying Over
Caramelized onions are an easy way to add a surge of sweet and savory to a menu item. What’s more, a recent study found that caramelized onions can actually add value to a menu item. In the survey, conducted by Datassential, items that included caramelized onions averaged $1.80 more per item than onions menued without a noted preparation method. For operations with limited prep, processed caramelized onions are available flash-frozen and ready to use.

Even the term “caramelized” alone is growing in instances on menus. Penetration of the term on fast-casual menus is 23%, while 9% of QSRs use the term on their menus.

20. Support a Cause, Sell Food
What better way to show you’re in the foodservice game than by aligning with a food-related cause? Nonprofits such as Share Our Strength offer turnkey participation programs for campaigns such as Dine Out for No Kid Hungry. The 180-store chain Pita Pit launched a monthlong promo last September, donating 50 cents for every salad sold. Customers could also donate $1 or more directly to Share Our Strength and receive a coupon for $1 off their next pita. Sixty-two locations brought in $20,000.

One takeaway for Lisa Aitken, director of marketing, came from the company’s many college locations: Students often don’t have extra cash, but they are eager to donate time and raise awareness. Both organizations are brainstorming ways to better engage that group.

21. Cheese Theater
At Chuck & Augie’s at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, chefs make mozzarella daily. Not only does it yield a higher price tag, but the cheese-making itself also draws attention. Imagine someone in chef whites, pulling cheese in your store during a busy day-part. You could sell the mozzarella by the pound, and feature it in panini, salads or a portable Caprese cup.

22. Breakfast Border Run
The Taco Bell brand may be well known for many things, but breakfast is not one of them. So when developing its First Meal breakfast menu, the company wisely partnered with brands that are synonymous with the morning day-part. Johnsonville, Cinnabon, Tropicana and Seattle’s Best Coffee are all marquee names on the new menu, launched in 750 stores in January. Johnsonville helped create the signature item, a sausage and egg tortilla wrap with melted cheese. Another good idea: It started the breakfast rollout out West, where people are accustomed to starting the day with a breakfast burrito.

23. QR Codes for Quality
QR codes have largely been used as a way for brands to market to consumers, but they’re also implemented to help traceability from field to store. In Idaho, onion farmers are placing QR codes on bags of onions and including crucial information such as the field where and day and time when the onions were harvested.

24. Cheesecake as Canvas
Cheesecake is a perennial favorite, and even c-stores and truckstops, including TravelCenters of America, are seeing increased sales of prepackaged slices placed in open-air coolers. It’s also an ideal canvas for unique flavor combinations and customizations.

Offer a toppings bar for customers to top their own slices, or follow these suggestions from The Cheesecake Factory Bakery: diced strawberries and mangos, mint leaves, sugar and fresh-ground pepper; light brown sugar, cinnamon and candied almonds; blueberries, lemon juice and sugar, topped with fresh basil; chocolate toffee chunks, raspberries and fresh mint; apple-pecan bourbon sauce with candied apples and pecans; or chocolate, cayenne and an anise and cinnamon cream.

Watch for the next issue of Fare Digest for Nos. 25-30. A special thanks goes to our team of innovators who helped us create this list: Joseph Bona of CBX in New York; Melissa Abbott and her fellow consumer-trends gurus at The Hartman Group in Bellevue, Wash.; Ken Toong of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Chris Koetke at Kendall College in Chicago; Dan Chiado and the rest of the team at Olson Communications in Chicago; and Aaron Noveshen and Judy Hsu at The Culinary Edge, San Francisco.

By Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products
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