If you’ve been in any Halloween stores lately, you’ve probably seen Sriracha Halloween costumes. Yes, that’s right – people are dressing up as hot sauce. It seems like these days, you can’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing about hot sauce. Sriracha, in particular, is hugely popular among younger, more educated, and well-off demographics. That’s not to say it isn’t popular with other groups, just that it’s becoming especially popular in those groups.
But why? why do these people want to burn their mouths and cause their eyes to water? Are they all masochists? It’s not like they were raised on more hot sauce than other groups. The huge growth in hot sauce has been very recent.
One potential explanation is that people are trying to eat healthier these days, especially those who have the money, education, and free time to really think about what they’re eating. Unfortunately, most people now are accustomed to heavily flavored and seasoned foods, often made delicious by a cocktail of chemicals and preservatives. When you start dropping those unhealthy ingredients in favor of more natural, less processed foods, you get a different flavor profile. Plant tastes shine through. Many foods seem much blander.
When you want to liven up your food, hot sauce is one of the best ways to to do it. It only takes a little to make a big difference, and the spices can really bring out and enhance the other flavors in a dish. Additionally, a lot of healthy international choices are especially popular with hot sauce – burritos, falafel pitas, and sushi are all greatly enhanced by a good hot sauce.
So how can you benefit from this trend? If you own a restaurant already, look over your menu and see which dishes might be enhanced by the addition of hot sauce. I wouldn’t recommend doing it automatically, but highlight the “heat” option on your menu. For some, just adding a hot sauce or two on the tables will be sufficient to please customers. In other cases, you might want to go so far as to create an entirely new menu item to satisfy heat-seeking customers. Don’t limit yourself to just hot sauce, either. Other condiments can benefit from some spiciness, particularly mayo.
Although it’s important not to lose your restaurant’s identity while trying to please new customers, it’s also important to make sure you have something for everyone. Very few people dine out alone, and we’ve all had those experiences where we’re getting ready to eat out with a group, only to see a single person raising objections about a restaurant because they have some objection – either the food is too bland for their tastes (or not bland enough!), there are few good vegetarian or vegan options, there’s nothing gluten-free, and so on. If you feel you shouldn’t have to placate the preferences of diners unlike yourself, you might be losing out on a significant amount of business. In the competitive restaurant business, you need every advantage you can get.