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Kruse Report: Fruit a new favorite on chain restaurant menus

From apple slices to exotic fare like açaí, fruit is multiplying in restaurant dishes

Editor’s Note: In The Kruse Report, a feature on NRN.com, food trend expert Nancy Kruse looks at what’s shaping menus across the country.

It wasn’t too long ago that the appearance of fresh apples on chain menus caused quite a stir. McDonald’s put them in the Fruit and Walnut Premium Salad and sent the domestic apple industry into overdrive. Burger King slyly added Fresh Apple Fries — peeled apples sliced in the shape of French fries — to the kids’ menu and snagged plenty of grown-up buyers in the process.

Fast-casual chains like Panera Bread made varietals like Granny Smith and Fuji key ingredients in their entrée salads.

Since that time, corporate chefs’ use of fruits has evolved at warp speed, driven partly by the versatility and accessibility of a wide range of products and partly by consumer receptivity to their flavor, color and healthful image. In a relatively short time, fruit has become a menu workhorse.

Bananas can now be found at Houlihan’s — in the ahi tuna salad with banana-ginger vinaigrette — and in the banana spring rolls at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant.
California Pizza Kitchen is baking a pear and Gorgonzola pizza, and Uno Chicago Grill is serving a D’Anjou pear salad.

Mangoes are featured in Applebee’s Mango Limonadoes Cocktail at Applebee’s, not to mention the mango pineapple smoothie that debuted at McDonald’s this summer.

Strawberries and blueberries are in Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken salad — also new this summer — as well as in the Blueberry-Blues Spinach salad at Fresh Choice and Shari’s blackberry pie milkshake.

See how chains are using fruit on their menus.

Contact Nancy Kruse at nan[email protected].

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