Q&A: Making Money on the Side with Idaho® Potatoes

I have heard that Steak chains love potatoes as it is a way to offset the cost of the protein.  Is that why some restaurant have a whole section of potato side dishes?
You are correct in that assumption, potatoes are among the most profitable menu items you can have on the menu during this economic recession.  In fact, many operators have found they can add even more potatoes to the menu because of their popularity with guests.Side dishes are becoming more popular than ever.  Whether served a la carte or with an entrée, the major role of a side dish is to help increase check averages and profit margins.  And what says “side dish” better than Idaho® potatoes?  There are several ways to serve up side dishes.  One is to create a special side dish for each entrée, pairing known favorites with entrees with the highest profit margins.  Watch your grilled salmon with wasabi mashed Idaho® potatoes at $15.95 outsell your chicken breast on rice pilaf at $11.95.  Another option is offering customers a choice of sides with each entrée.  Customers like the flexibility and perceive the meal as having a greater value, allowing you to charge more for it and reducing your food costs at the same time.  Finally, having an a la carte side dish menu is a great way to increase check averages.  Offer a side dish sampler platter, with three or four Idaho® potato dishes for the entire table to share.  You can also offer this as an entrée for those customers who know the side dish is the best part of the meal.Here are some tips on how to “zip-up” your potatoes and profit margins:French Fries:
  • Serve fries with dips or toppings, such as salsa, blue cheese, ranch-style dip, pesto mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, guacamole or flavored ketchups, such as blueberry or jalapeno.
  • Create signature fries by sprinkling with chopped fresh herbs, cayenne pepper, paprika, curry powder, Cajun spices, or garlic salt.
Mashed Potatoes:
  • Blend mashed Idaho® potatoes with finely chopped nicoise olives, olive oil, milk, salt and pepper.
  • Add sautéed onion, chopped basil, minced garlic, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to mashed potatoes.
Baked Potatoes:
  • Top baked Idaho® potatoes with any combination of: mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, ricotta, blue or cheddar cheese, chili, pizza sauce, salsa, and guacamole.
  • Make twice-baked Idaho® potatoes by scooping out potato pulp and mixing with your favorite ingredients.
Scalloped/Au Gratin
  • Layer scalloped potatoes with turnip slices and Spanish onion slices.  Use half milk and half cream mixture.
  • Add Dijon mustard to white sauce and layer Idaho® potatoes with shredded cheeses and diced ham.
More and more foodservice operators in every segment are turning to side dishes as a great way to build personality and boost check averages.  Side dishes give customers the opportunity to custom-tailor their meal, thus enhancing the dining-out experience.  In fast food operations, they are an easy way to broaden a limited menu.  And, since tastes in vegetables tend to be fussier than tastes in main dishes, especially in family restaurants, offering a choice can help increase your menu’s appeal.  Not surprisingly, potatoes are the best selling side dish in foodservice – and the most profitable.  Universally popular, potatoes complement any main course item and are a perfect base for a wide array of flavors and textures.