Ralph's on the Park News


Get Profits Rolling With Bowls

Step aside, fast-casual chains. You’re not the only ones with big bowls on the menu. These all-in-one dishes, filled with everything from Asian noodles and broth to healthy grains, are popping up at restaurants across the country. We talked to chefs about why customers love bowls, and how they’re improving the bottom line.

A low price point that’s a win-win for restaurants? Chef Brennan Foxman says the most popular lunch item at Philadelphia’s WokWorks, the crunchy chicken bowl ($8.95), is just as budget-friendly for his kitchen as it is for his working professional customer base. The bowl includes lo mein noodles, all-natural skillet chicken, broccoli, crunchy noodle chips, and a sweet and spicy sauce.

At Deschutes Brewery & Public House in Bend, Oregon, Chef Brian Kerr answered customers’ call for cheap eats with Asian-inspired soup bowls, such as lemongrass pork in a dashi broth with udon noodles ($11).

In addition to meeting customer demand, the bowls let the restaurant make the most of leftovers and surplus product. “Most any vegetable, meat, [or] garnish will fit into a noodle bowl,” Kerr says.

Bowls also allow the kitchen to experiment at a low cost. At Deschutes, the soups are a fun change of pace for staff who would otherwise be flipping burgers all day.

“Not only do they keep our guests interested, but they also keep our staff interested,” Kerr says.

Chef Chip Flanagan tapped into his creativity when he started serving yaka mein—a beef noodle soup that blends Chinese and Creole traditions—at his upscale New Orleans restaurant, Ralph’s on the Park. The soup ($10)—housemade tagliatelle, a rich veal stock reduction, shiitake mushrooms, seared pork belly, a fried egg basted in butter, hot sauce, and green onions—earned a permanent spot on the menu. Flanagan frequently showcases the popular dish at events.

Letting customers choose their fixings means bigger check averages. At Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon, the quinoa bowl ($12) consists of red beans, chicory, cabbage, sweet peppers, and tomatillo lime dressing, and customers can upgrade it with slow-cooked pork, avocado, queso fresco, and shaved jalapenos ($2-$3 each). Chef Kyle Rourke says customers are willing to pay extra to make their bowl heartier, making these add-ons an easy revenue booster.

Bowls can also help restaurants attract and satiate health-conscious diners. Chef Mike Rakun, who prioritized low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sodium when he developed his menu at Mill Valley Kitchen in Minneapolis, offers a vegan curry vegetable grain bowl ($14) made with quinoa and seasonal vegetables. The dish is one of the restaurant’s most popular lunch entrees.

Essensia Restaurant in the Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, Florida, also has a grain bowl that’ll make any health nut smile. It’s made with bulgur, farro, quinoa, pomegranate, feta, carrot, cucumber, herbs, and citrus ($14).

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