Panda Express launches First Watch plant-based drinks and tacos

You may be able to get boba tea at Panda Express in the not-too-distant future and First Watch has plans for cauliflower tacos al pastor early next year, according to product development managers at these chains.

In a session on “Maximizing Your Menu’s Profitability” which is part of Nation’s Restaurant News’ online CREATE educational series, Shane Schaibly, senior vice president of culinary strategy and chief business officer at First Watch, a chain of family restaurant that serves breakfast, brunch and lunch, cited the new tacos as an example of a limited-time offer that tests new categories and allows the restaurant to make a statement, which means profit n is not necessarily the main reason for an article like this.

“We don’t expect it to break any PMIX records, but it’s an exciting dish,” he said. “It’s about plant-based foods that grow in the ground,” letting the chain push the boundaries of what it offers and also allowing it to contribute to the ongoing conversation about plant-based items.

Jimmy Wang, executive director of culinary and product innovation at Chinese-American quick-service chain Panda Express, pointed to people posting attractive drink photos on Instagram as a way for social media to influence development. menus.

“We are currently launching our Panda house drinks in order to be able to combine [them] with our current food, and people might be very excited about it,” he said, adding that consumer research indicates Panda could do with exotic fruit flavors, as well as tea, which is winning in popularity and ties in well with the chain. Sino-American heritage, since tea originated in China.

“People are starting to come out of the soda station,” he said. “So what’s the next opportunity people can say, ‘Hey, I want to buy this because it looks refreshing, it looks colorful, it looks delicious, and it works with food. ”

When asked if guests could soon order boba tea with Panda Express’ beloved orange chicken, he replied, “We’re working on it.”

The chefs shared their perspective on the importance of working with their company’s supply chain teams while reflecting on what works and what doesn’t in menu development.

Both agreed that they had to work with two categories of customers: their own operational teams and the consumers who will buy the food.

Wang said any new menu item should be easy to prepare and serve well for people in restaurants, and customers should be thrilled to see it.

“And of course we are a business, so we have to think about sales results,” Wang said.

Schaibly said over the years he learned which food categories worked well as limited-time offers, such as hashes – one of which, a vacuum-cooked, pulled corned beef hash by hand which will be launched in the fall – and French toast . Although he added that one item he thought was going to be a big hit, s’mores French Toast, didn’t work out.

“It was the first one we created, tested and it was a complete flop…which stung a bit,” he said.

Wang had a similar experience with the Szechuan Hot Chicken test, which was chicken strips dipped in seasoning oil spiced with Szechuan peppercorns — the first nationwide rollout using this spice — that relied on l Nashville hot chicken craze.

He said the article had “a little tingle, a little numbness [from the Szechuan peppercorns] in addition to those hot spices typical of the South. We thought it was going to be a home run!

But it turned out that customers weren’t quite ready for it.

The test was not a total loss, however.

“We also learned something very important, which is that our consumer doesn’t like to take a bite of something and then put it down,” he said while eating at Panda. “Everything else on our menu is one bite at a time.”

Schaibly said sometimes a menu item just needs a different name, like when First Watch tested the Middle Eastern dish shakshuka, a dish of eggs cooked in a spicy tomato stew, a few years ago. . After testing it and finding the name didn’t resonate with channel guests, “we ended up rolling it out as Mediterranean Baked Eggs, and it turned out pretty well.”

You can see the entire conversation on the CREATE website.

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