Mardi Gras only comes once per year, but it’s possible to keep that ‘eat drink and be merry’ vibe going year round when you add a bit of Cajun flare to your menu.
It’s all about the spice in Cajun cuisine, which is likely what contributes to its appeal. Americans simply cannot get enough spice. According to Datassential, nearly 70% of fast casual chains use the term spicy on their menu. The numbers only go up from there by segment (except for fine dining, where they likely use more nuanced language to describe their spicy options)
Even use of the word Cajun specifically is fairly common, especially at regional chains. Datassential reports that the word appears on 16.3% of menus. It’s a niche, yes, but it’s one that the American consumer is familiar with and willing to explore when the mood strikes.
Americans Love Cajun
Menu items like gumbo, boudin sausage, jambalaya, blackened meat or seafood, po boys and andouille are widely available on American chain restaurant menus. And even Americans who have not visited New Orleans (the epicenter of all things Cajun) know that it’s a foodie destination. Datassential found that while only 29% of its survey respondents have been to NOLA, almost 50% said they would go just for the dining experience.
So it should come as no surprise that Datassentail reports that 66% of respondents want to see more Cajun inspired options on their menus. This proliferation of Cajun-inspired flavors and dishes (crawfish, beignet, etouffee, muffaletta are on the come up), can present an opportunity for brands. The key is figuring out how experimental consumers really want to get.
Pairing something familiar with something new is a safe way to enter territory that may be unfamiliar to your typical consumer. Consider an item like crawfish etouffee. If a consumer has never tried Cajun before, they may be reluctant to dive in head first with a dish that features something French and a creature that looks like it might just bite on its way down.
Cajun for Noobs
Consider launching a more accessible but still authentic variation of it, such as chicken etouffee. It allows noobs to dip their toe into Cajun waters while still keeping their eye on something familiar to ground them. Foodies might call the dish pedestrian, but the typical American consumer is not necessarily a foodie. They want to experiment while also eating foods that are familiar to them.
Sandwiches are a great vehicle for experimentation for a reluctant diner, and luckily there are two New Orleans native sandwiches that fit the bill.
A Po’Boy is a type of sandwich that originated in New Orleans, and it’s very similar to an American sub. Swap out your standard sub bread for something with a crispy exterior and a fluffy center, add some type of fried seafood, and have your innovation teams whip up a paprika/cayenne-based aioli to liven it up.
The muffuletta is not Cajun, but instead more broadly New Orleans-style. Created by the region’s Italian immigrant community, it’s another type of sandwich American consumers love. It requires a special type of bread and an olive salad, but it’s guaranteed to catch the attention of diners looking for a Cajun-adjacent LTO.
All Friends + Cajun = A Winning Combo
This unfamiliar with something familiar approach is what we used when developing our All Friends beverages. We picked trends (like botanicals or asian and latin inspired flavors) and paired them with a familiar element (like a popular fruit). Strawberry (familiar fruit) Hibiscus (trending botanical); Mango (familiar fruit; Latin roots) Chili (trending drink feature; Latin roots); Blueberry (familiar fruit) Chai (trending spice; Asian roots). Pineapple (familiar fruit) Ginger (trending spice; Asian roots).
We added Black Tea and Farmstand Lemonade to the lineup so operators have the option to blend the more unusual flavor profiles with something even more accessible. Hence, each beverage can be served on its or mixed with any of the other beverages in the lineup. Think Strawberry Hibiscus + Farmstand Lemonade; Blueberry Chai + Black Tea. You get the idea.
And finally, the best part about All Friends is that they were designed to pair with all types of cuisine— even Cajun. Our innovation team loves to dream up pairings for our partners. Our team will get to know your menu well, and we’ll help you create irresistible pairings that your customers will love.
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