DESSERT AS THE MAIN EVENT

Most diners will visit your restaurant for its main courses, but there’s a growing number of people who head out with one thing in mind – and we’re not talking about your drinks menu. Instead, foodies everywhere are viewing dessert as the ‘main event’ during a meal – and there are plenty of reasons this might be the case.

The popularity of The Great British Bake Off could point to Britain’s love of puddings. There’s also no denying the appeal of a photograph or two to show off via social media – in picture form, desserts can often look more tempting than the main course. There’s even a dedicated Instagram page featuring a myriad of sugar-filled treats and displaying the tag line: ‘For people who eat dinner to get to dessert’.

Meanwhile, Business Wire suggests there’s certainly an ever-growing demand for puddings, with some key findings in a recent report being:

  • Ice cream brands’ offering free-from products are becoming more attractive to customers with health concerns, with the market expected to soar in value and volume in the next five years alone
  • In a bid to boost their sales value and volume, sugar-free confectionary brands have worked hard to produce natural flavours
  • Away from free-from food, brands who are diversifying their flavours in general are also responsible for the market growth.

Such is this rising trend for desserts that, in London’s Chinatown, there’s an area known affectionately as ‘dessert alley’, due to its growing presence of eateries with a penchant for pudding.

Recently, Shaftesbury has welcomed three new, sugary-centred brands – Kova Patisserie, Taiyakiya, and Meet Fresh, each of them bringing fresh creative concepts and ‘signature sweet treats’ to the capital.

In a piece on the Hospitality and Catering News site, Julia Wilkinson, Head of Group Restaurant Strategy at Shaftsbury, sheds some light on this dessert-based movement. She says: “Dessert focused concepts are a popular and exciting food trend, and they are gaining more and more traction within Chinatown London.”

Innovative Dessert Operators

Julia goes on to say how proud she is of ‘dessert alley’ on Newport Court, which Kova Patisserie and Taiyakiya add to, alongside the winner of ‘Best Sweet Treat’ at The Golden Chopsticks Award 2019, Mamasons. 

“Providing even more choice throughout the streets of Chinatown, Meet Fresh has joined existing innovative dessert operators such as Yolkin and Bubblewrap, enhancing the experience of the destination and reflecting the changing trends in East Asia by combining traditional ideas with modern techniques and influences.” 

It’s clear that diners are enjoying the innovation that these London eateries are dishing up, with Kova Patisserie serving French-Japanese fusion patisserie, Taiyakiya serving taiyaki – the social media famed fish-shaped waffle cone – with soft-serve ice cream.

Finally, Meet Fresh debuted its authentic Taiwanese desserts, including Taro Q balls and smooth tofu pudding, after opening its doors to pudding-loving punters.

Across the pond, our American cousins are perhaps even more experimental when it comes to the desserts they enjoy tucking into, with Bake Mag highlighting some interesting stats, thanks to some Dataassential research. These include:

  • 28% of consumers are interested in savoury flavours in desserts
  • 59% of operators either offer or are interested in offering desserts with ‘free-from’ descriptors, while 26% of consumers are very interested or interested in this trend.
  • Vegan desserts have grown six-fold on menus in the past 10 years
  • Desserts with alcohol pique the interest of 30% of consumers, with 35% of operators offering these desserts (or open to offering them). Over the past decade alone, whiskey-infused desserts have increased 58% on menus
  • 41% of consumers are very interested or interested in global desserts, while 55% of operators offer them or would be interested in offering them.

Good news for those who’ve added the French macaron to their menu. Bake Mag reports that the dainty cake topping has increased in penetration by 13 times in the past 10 years, too.

Delicious desserts: How can you pull in customers

With all these trends and facts in mind, how can you stand out and entice new clientele to your venue? There’s no denying the pull of a desserts menu which doesn’t exclude anyone with a dietary requirement or condition – be that coeliac disease, dairy intolerance or veganism.

A great place to start would be by developing some recipes that meet the needs of those who’ve gone gluten-free or are exploring a plant-based diet. Sugar-free desserts are also in demand, as are retro-inspired classics.

You could also consider the following for your pub, restaurant or café:

Sharing Boards – Give customers the chance to try a variety of miniature desserts with a sharing board that offers a handful of post-dinner treats. You could employ a theme for each board – such as ‘cheesecake’ or ‘cream cakes’, or you could simply make smaller versions of your most popular desserts, serving them on one, great value platter and giving your punters the opportunity to sample exactly what you have to offer.

Baking Classes – For those with the space to host them, baking classes on-site can help bring a new set of diners into your establishment. Plan your evening around a specific dessert – macarons, for example – and teach customers the basics while also allowing them to get creative with flavours and embellishments. Charge a fee and advertise your baking or cookery evenings well in advance via your social media channels.

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