Many customers expect to see the same staples — burritos, tacos, and nachos — on every Mexican restaurant menu, but as delicious as those dishes are, they can feel a little stale.
The good news? Creativity boosts your profits.
Restaurateurs are finding new ways to wow customers with unique, fun dishes that highlight the richness and complexity of Mexican flavors. And their efforts pay off.
In this article, you’ll get the inside scoop on:
- The latest trends and flavors in Mexican cuisine and how to use them
- How Taco Bell is using the power of science to wow customers
- How to harness your creativity and create new menu items your customers will love
Ready to spice up your menu? Keep reading.
The Future of Mexican Cuisine Is Bright (and Spicy)
What do mangoes, annatto seeds, and sour orange juice have in common? They’re all the latest ingredients savvy restaurateurs are getting creative with.
We reached out to our network of Mexican restaurant owners and asked them to suggest some less obvious, yet delicious, Mexican food pairings and dishes. Here’s what they told us:
- Think outside the box— Try pairing Mexican food with ingredients like:
- Mango: This sweet fruit pairs well with savory dishes like tacos or enchiladas.
- Pineapple: Try adding pineapple chunks to your homemade guacamole for a fruity twist.
- Coconut: Shredding coconut into your rice is another less common but mouth-watering choice.
- Ginger: A ginger-lime marinade for meat dishes will add a fiery kick to your menu.
- Try achiote paste — Looking to add some color to your menu? Achiote paste is made from annatto seeds and has a rich, nutty, earthy flavor. The paste adds flavor to soups and stews — and it also works as a dip or marinade for meats. Here’s a recipe.
- Choose xnipec. Xnipec or ‘’Dog’s Snout’’ (see picture above) sauce — named on account of its spiciness (your nose might be dripping with sweat by the time you dip into this) — is popular in Yucatan cuisine. Made from habanero peppers, tomatoes, onions, sour orange juice, and salt, the heat of xnipec is balanced out by tartness from the sour orange juice. Check out the recipe here.
Mexico is a vast country, and every region has unique recipes for you to experiment with. Try your hand at any of these pairings and options, and show your customers the variety and complexity that Mexican cuisine has to offer.
Next Up: How Taco Bell is leading the charge when it comes to getting creative.
Tear a Page Out of Taco Bell’s Cookbook
Most Mexican menus have the same basic options.
Tacos? Check. Nachos? Check. Burritos? Check. The same old? Check, check.
But Taco Bell can be a maverick when it comes to innovation.
Take the Doritos Locos Tacos. This taco shell launched in 2012 and sold 100 million units in its first ten weeks. As Liz Matthews, Global Chief Food Innovation Officer of Taco Bell, told the New Yorker, “People were driving three hundred miles to get the DLT. One guy drove across the country.”
What inspires this type of devotion?
It all came from Taco Bell listening to its customers. Turns out a lot of them like putting tortilla chips in their taco and love Doritos. The result? One of the most creative dishes ever sold by a Mexican restaurant — with over 1 billion sold so far.
That’s not all Taco Bell has to offer. Some of their wilder creations include:
- Naked Chicken Chalupa — Introduced in 2021 during the infamous “Chicken Sandwich Wars” when seemingly every QSR decided to release a chicken sandwich, this dish pushes the boundaries, to say the least. Consisting of a chalupa shell made entirely from fried chicken, it launched with an inventive marketing campaign —a ‘’Chicken Sandwich Wars’’ mockumentary.
- Quesalupa — A chalupa shell stuffed with cheese. Matthews explained: “Our customers raved about the cheese-filled chalupa shell in its first debut, so when the Quesalupa began its return journey back to our nationwide menus, we knew we needed to perfect that cheesy experience — one that will be consistent for every guest and every bite.”
- Toasted Cheddar Chalupa — Another chalupa shell, this time coated with toasted cheddar cheese. This dish was so popular, Taco Bell released it in certain secret locations early — to encourage speculation and hype over where you could get your hands on it before it was available nationwide.
The key to these menu items’ enduring popularity? According to Taco Bell, they are the perfect blend of the old and the new, which is what their customers are looking for. Nostalgia, emotion, and memory.
“I was determined to beat the competition, so I decided to experiment.” –Glen Bell, Taco Titan (Founder of Taco Bell)
Don’t be afraid to play with your food. Follow Taco Bell’s lead and get creative, but remember — try to balance authenticity and originality. You want to respect the traditions and roots of Mexican food, but also add your own twist and personality. You want to offer something familiar and surprising.
Read More: <HR> Here’s Why Chipotle, Torchy’s Tacos, and Qdoba Keep Winning<update link when live>
Are You Really Listening to Your Customers?
Taco Bell has a well-founded reputation for innovation. It comes from their research complex in Texas, staffed by (literally) hundreds of technicians, chemists, and psychologists who conduct intensive tests every year to examine everything from crunch and mouthfeel to the aroma of Taco Bell products.
But you don’t have to invest in a million-dollar-per-year research facility to get creative. A lot of Taco Bell’s menu items come from simply listening to their customers.
“The menu has developed a cult-like following who have relentlessly championed its return. From petitions to recreating their own DIY alternatives from home, Taco Bell fans took to social advocating for the return. Taco Bell heard and is making this summer hotter than ever.”
Not sure what your customers want? There are plenty of ways to ask:
- Ask for feedback at the end of the meal — The classic way to get feedback, and it’s easy to do. Simply ask your customers to fill out a short survey or leave a comment on their receipt.
- Leverage the power of social media — Social media is a great way to get feedback from your customers. You can ask questions, run polls, or simply encourage them to share their thoughts and experiences — all of which can inform your next menu innovations.
- Set up a feedback box — Some customers may not be comfortable speaking to you directly. If they didn’t like the dish, they may not want to tell you to your face. To get that insight anyway, set up an anonymous feedback box in the corner of the restaurant.
Another way to collect customer feedback? Gathering customer data. If you have an up-to-date restaurant management system, you can gather data on customers based on their food preferences (favorite dishes, allergies, etc.) and use that to inform your menu innovations.
For example: A significant portion of your customers are vegans. Your dishes containing avocado are some of your best sellers. Consider experimenting with a creamy Mexican avocado soup — a hearty vegan dish that’s perfect for a cold day.
Get this right and you can stand out from the crowd, attract new customers, and boost your profits.
Ready to Spice Up Your Menu? We’ve Got Your Back
Innovation isn’t easy. Especially when you have a restaurant to run full-time — but HungerRush is here to help.
While we can’t cook your food and serve it for you, we can take care of all the behind-the-scenes work that eats at your time, including:
- Marketing — Our done-for-you marketing turns one-off customers into your biggest fans.
- Management — Our unified, cloud-based POS puts you in control of your restaurant, wherever you are.
- Labor — With our smart AI phone and text ordering solutions, your employees will be free to serve food with a smile, not answering ringing phones during the evening rush.
Curious about what HungerRush can do for you? Get in touch with a rep — we’re only a call or email away.
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