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A dollop, a dip, and a splash: How sauces and condiments can make your restaurant stand out.

Stacy Bailey

When it comes to serving up craveable condiments that differentiate you from your competition, never underestimate the power of natural ingredients and pantry staples. Using them to create signature sauces, spreads and dips is a simple cost-effective way to dial up consumer appeal and profit margins.  Forty-three percent of consumers and 58% of Millennials are tempted to order a dish if it comes with an original sauce or ingredient they can only get at a particular restaurant.1   

Menu-worthy additions and upcharges for 2021. While sauces with varying heat levels—from mild jalapeno to garlic chili to volcanic habanero—remain popular choices, not all customers like it hot. For those palates, you can create something a little sweet and spicy; a simple way to do this is to add a little honey to balance out the taste.2 Fermented honey made from raw honey and water is growing in popularity; a hot raw honey and basil aioli is an example of how one restaurant enhanced its menu offering.3 Sriracha aioli is another popular choice. In fact, it’s the fastest growing flavor of aioli, up 250% since 2014.4

As people become more health-conscious, plant-based options are increasing in popularity.2 A frontrunner in this category is pasta sauces. With ingredients like tomato, basic and garlic, they’re already plant-based; and now things like broccoli, kale and cauliflower are finding their way into vegetarian and vegan sauces.2 Other crowd-pleasers are avocado spreads and hummus, including a variety of dessert hummuses. By putting their own spin on vegetable-forward spreads, chefs are enticing customers to explore brave new frontiers in flavor.

Customers are also sweet on sweet dips and spreads, including dessert hummus and nut butters; coffee-flavored nut butter being one of the more unusual options.2 Perhaps you want to consider creating a unique spin on this spread?

A splash of spirits is also a great way to infuse a little attitude into sauces and dressings. In addition to wine, creative chefs are infusing salsas with tequila, adding bourbon to barbecue sauces, and adding whiskey to sweet dessert sauces. A coffee or orange liqueur in a chocolate sauce remain classic options. 

When it comes to spicing up your menu, a little imagination goes a long way. You can start by adding new flavors to familiar favorite. In the recent past, fusebiquity—combining early-stage flavors with familiar favorites focused on combining Asian and Mexican flavors.3 In the years ahead, you should look towards mashups of Indian, Middle Eastern and even Nordic options.3 Fresh signature creations are a smart way to build interest and loyalty. According to 68% of chefs surveyed, housemade condiments were ranked as a top three “Hot Trend.”5

From killer pasta sauces to “to-die-for” hummus creations, Surlean Foods can help you bring added dimension and revenue to your menu. Our recipe development experts have the skills, vision, and scientific know-how to help you create signature sauces, spreads, and dips that customers crave.

1Technomic Flavor Consumer Trend Report, 2017

2Lamia Rochi, 2020 Dips, Sauces, Spreads and Trends, retrieved 2021 from

3Foodbytes 2021 Trends

4Datassential Menu Trends, 2018

5 National Restaurant Association, 2017

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