Culinary fusions have long ruled the roost where restaurant trends perch for a time before making room for new marketing high-flyers. In particular, Asian fusions attract lots of attention because these cuisines have long histories, attractive conceptual ideas and healthier reputations.

Upscale restaurants are more likely to market their menu choices as culinary fusions, but the term “mashup” is gaining ground in fast food, fast casual and neighborhood restaurants. In simple terms, mashups are beer-budget culinary hybrids while fusions are champagne and caviar. That doesn’t mean that one term is better than the other. Some people simply don’t like champagne and consider caviar to be off-putting and fishy. Restaurateurs can choose the term that their customers prefer and get amazing marketing benefits.

Fish or Cut Bait

Marketing is a lot like fishing — you need the right bait to catch the fish you want to land, and you’ve got to be patient. Using mashups and culinary fusions in your marketing and menus can land customers who prefer either aspect of the hybrid dishes and attract people who want to try different foods.

Culinary Fusion Marketing Ideas

If you want to get powerful marketing benefits from culinary fusions, tell your customers a bit of history about both cuisines that are involved and the history of culinary fusions. The biggest mistake that restaurants make is commissioning eager young chefs to flout the rules without a sound reason to do so. Changing ingredients and cooking techniques requires knowledge of both cuisines and their ingredients. Your chef or menu planner needs to know how flavors work and interplay with other ingredients, or you risk creating an unappealing dish.

The simplest explanation for fusing culinary styles is that certain ingredients weren’t available in one culture or that using fresh, local ingredients improves a recipe. Tell your story to engage your customers — a good story will convince people to try something different.

Some marketers, chefs and restaurateurs prefer to use other terms for fusions because they think the term’s overused. You might get better results by labelling dishes Italian-influenced, modern-French or globally inspired. If you feel it will work better with your customers, market a mashup of Vietnamese and Korean cuisines instead of a fusion. Each generation develops its own preference for catchwords, but the beauty of modern marketing is that you can ask your customers about which terms they prefer through surveys, polls and queries on the social media or your website.

Providing Custom Meals

You can get lots of marketing mileage by letting your customers order custom fusions. The idea appeals to customers who know what they want or are particular about ingredients. But don’t stop there. Give some examples of good ideas for fusing cuisines or cooking styles, such as adding rare herbs, substituting locally available seafood or producing vegetarian tacos with meaty alternatives.

Fusing cooking styles on request can absolve your restaurant from culinary disasters while enhancing your reputation for boldness and creativity.

Example of ideas that can guide your customers and prevent your chefs from having nervous breakdowns include:

  • Recommending that guests balance their special requests with salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami flavors
  • Discouraging guests from combining too many disparate things
  • Providing lists of popular combinations
  • Including fusion ideas in multiple marketing platforms so that customers can plan their orders before arriving
  • Choosing Japanese or Korean fusions as one of your staples and pairing your choice with almost any cuisine

Japanese and Korean fusions rank among the hottest restaurant trends, so you can capitalize on these pairings in your marketing.

Offering Fusion Dishes on the Menu

Fusion is a long-standing culinary tradition, but the term wasn’t widely used until Wolfgang Puck and other chefs began merging culinary styles in the 1970s. Popular fusions included European and Asian dishes, commonly called Eurasian. Puck had familiarity with both cuisines because he was trained in Europe but familiar with Asian ingredients. California cuisine commonly blends ingredients and traditions from Mexico, Italy, France and European delicatessens.

Make sure that your chef has a broad knowledge of culinary styles before adding fusion items to your menu. You want to be able to explain why you’re combining the cuisines. Modern diners are quite knowledgeable about highly publicized culinary trends but might lack practical experience when it comes to fusions. The more that you explain your reasoning, the better choices your customers can make. Tell your customers a story about why you’re blending cooking styles, and they’ll respond more enthusiastically to your marketing efforts.

Monster Menu Mashups

Mashups are increasingly invading fast food menus and modern culture. Classic foods like croissants, donuts, pizza, chocolate, waffles and tacos are being driven to the altar for shotgun weddings. Customers don’t always understand why restaurants are offering Cronuts, Ramen Burgers, Chocolate Pizzas, Chocotacos and Waffle Tacos. If you can explain your reasoning, you’ll get a better response, even if your ideas seem a bit wacky at first.

Mashups Include Hybrids of Meal Courses

Mashups often go further than fusions by combining desserts with savory items, snacks with entrées and soups with breads or salads. Savory doughnuts, ravioli pizza, gumbo salad and all-in-one breakfast muffins with a soft-cooked egg inside are the offspring of these culinary unions. Many of these dishes are designed to provide easier handling for busy people who order food from food trucks and carryout counters. Ideas for creative mashups include:

  • Breakfast
    Focus on all-in-one mashups that deliver essential nutrients. Market these foods as alternatives to skipping breakfast or grabbing a piece of fruit or breakfast bar. Breakfast burritos and tacos are popular alternatives to traditional sandwiches, and you can market ham, egg and cheese muffins, scotch eggs in an apple or other creative mashups.
  • Lunch
    Put soup in a bread bowl or hollowed-out fruit or vegetable for a portable lunch. Ramen bowls can combine meats, vegetables and more substantial fare than traditional soups. Offer sandwiches with tortilla or potato chips, Korean barbecue over fries or smothered smoked sausages using various toppings.
  • Dinner
    Comfort food mashups are extremely popular because they satisfy several common food desires. Bread stuffed with spaghetti, comfort casseroles like French onion, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf lasagna and cheese-stuffed meatballs are just a few of the comfort food ideas that you can market successfully. Try marketing any mashup as a daily special before adding it to the permanent menu.
  • Dessert
    Brownie S’mores, cronuts, meat-stuffed beignets and a pie inside a cake are just a few of the ideas for mashups. Desserts have always been highly individualistic depending on the baker or chef, and you can promote your dessert mashups without any special fanfare other than displaying them on dessert carts or in pastry cases.
  • Burger
    Fast food chains are always coming up with burger mashups. America’s most popular food lends itself to spectacular mashup ideas that are so numerous that you can just build your own concoction or let customers choose from a wide selection of toppings. McDonald’s is offering a carb burger, and Hardee’s sells a hot dog on a burger, so you can essentially offer any kind of combination as a special. However, if you come up with a great new flavor profile, you should market it aggressively.

What Customers Make at Home

Part of the reason that mashups are gaining popularity is that customers share more of their lives through social media and the Internet. Guilty pleasures are revealed — and many of them involve the gastronomic choices people make in their homes after midnight when their culinary vampires emerge. Elvis Presley pigged out on fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwiches. Everyone has a weird food preference, and these ideas are surfacing over the Internet. Restaurants can market their mashups as standard fare to satisfy these cravings, which reassures customers that they’re not the only people with unusual tastes in food.

Culinary Weddings for Receptive Guests

Whether you choose to market hybrid dishes under the name mashup, fusion or a name combination like Eurasian, the term describes the same culinary strategies. Restaurants combine styles to create something different and showcase ingredients that don’t seem to go together but actually work. Sometimes you substitute ingredients or cooking techniques for valid culinary benefits. Every great chef continually refines his or her recipes based on their cooking experiences and discovering new flavors, getting new suppliers or responding to evolving customer tastes.

Explain why you’re offering a mashup or fusion to engage your customers, start a dialog and get people thinking about what they eat. You’ll be amazed at the benefits of fostering a greater interest in the techniques involved in menu planning, creating new dishes and satisfying the desire for culinary variety. Brush up on your knowledge of culinary fusions and mashups so that you can market your menu intelligently, even if you choose to stick to classic techniques.