Keeping it Hot without Compromising Flavor
All too often, spicing up a dish usually means toning down its flavor.
This presents a unique challenge for restaurants specializing in piquant foods. More often than not, these restaurants take the easy way out and make concessions with their flavor in favor of heat intensity. Guests unwilling to compromise come to East Coast Wings + Grill.
After years of extensive research and collaboration with food scientists, we’ve perfected the art of creating delicious and spicy wing sauce that maintains an original, mouthwatering flavor. Not only that, we’re constantly innovating and updating our menu to keep guests coming back for more.
East Coast Wings + Grill Chief Operations Officer Tom Scalese shares a little more about what goes into our menu development process, and why guests can’t get enough:
You Can Have Your Spicy Wings and Flavor, Too
First and foremost: how we make sure heat index doesn’t mask flavor.
“We go through rounds of our research and development (R&D) process with our two main sauce suppliers to make sure the hotness doesn’t mask flavors,” Tom said. “Our Honey BBQ, Extra Hot and even Volcanic sauces need to have their own pronounced flavor, along with quality ingredients.”
East Coast Wings + Grill has eight different heat indexes for our sauces, giving guests the option to make their wings as spicy or as mild as they want.
“Some sauces we test have great flavors,” Tom explained, “but we opt out of putting them on our menu because those flavors won’t come through with every heat index.”
Of course, we won’t give away our secret to finding the perfect balance between flavor and hotness. But we can tell you it’s one of our key differentiators, and one of our guests’ favorite parts about dining with us.
From Suggestion to Menu Staple
Tom’s team is constantly talking to manufacturers and vendors to figure what the hot new food trends are. He also leads a culinary team of chefs in every regional market, as well as a group of chefs who specialize in food markets on a national level.
Any franchisee or member of the team can submit new menu ideas and flavors for Tom to test. In fact, the recipe for one of East Coast Wings + Grill’s most popular flavors, the sriracha-inspired Kamikaze sauce, was introduced by a franchisee.
“After people submit their ideas, our culinary team will select some ideas and figure out what to present to our focus group,” Tom said. “This group is made up of rewards members, patrons, franchisees and corporate members. They’ll rate their intent to re-order, and if there is an 80 percent intent to re-order, we’ll move forward with the R&D process.”
The product then moves into two or three test stores, where franchise partners offer the new products to patrons. Franchisees will then offer feedback to the corporate team about how the new menu item is working from an operational standpoint, as well as what patrons are saying about the food. If it continues to get an 80 percent intent to re-order, Tom and his team implement the product as a Limited Time Offer (LTO).
“We’re very data-driven, very methodical and everything goes through this extensive process, whether it’s a new menu item or new sauce,” Tom said. “After doing an item as an LTO, we’ll decide if it will make the menu or if it will be a seasonal offering.”
Why We’re Always Innovating
Tom and his team also consistently check the menu and think about new items to add.
“Innovation is extremely important to us, and it’s something we do week in and week out,” Tom said. “Every two weeks, we’re looking at new menu items. We try to have a good variety in the items we put out there, identifying those that get the best consumer response and improve margins for our franchisees.”
Tom and his team also regularly take a pulse of their regular menu offerings, and will periodically remove items if they’re not performing well. This way, franchisees are free to focus on their best-selling dishes – making guests happy while providing solid margins for franchisees.
“It’s important to keep the menu fresh and creative, and we look at year-over-year trends as well,” Tom said. “Patrons are always looking for what’s new, and they love to see our menu creativity.”
From our high-quality food to our continuous menu innovation, we make sure we’re always positioning our franchise partners to be on the cutting edge. Not only does this allow us to provide a superior guest experience, it also ensures great returns for our franchise partners.