Breakfast cereals see new life — as dessert

As dietary trends change and food awareness levels increase across Western society, what were once considered staples on the plate may soon not be the case. Hoteliers should take note of this as such shifts will impact meal satisfaction and F&B revenues. Plus, there’s an opportunity to have some fun!

Specifically, with the mounting evidence that excessive eating of grains – particularly those that are highly processed – can lead to obesity and a myriad of other related diseases, the consumption of these mainstays may be on the verge of a dramatic decline. While current statistics may not reveal any precipitous drop in cereal consumption, the eating habits of millennials and iGens support the fact that what was once a foundation of the morning meal has evolved into an evening or nighttime snack.

For background, the words ‘grain’ and ‘cereal’ are quite generic, encompassing everything from the low glycemic and in vogue crops of quinoa, bulgur and amaranth to all manner of wheat, rice and maize products. Particularly for our purposes, ‘cereal’ in this case refers to what you would encounter in the similarly named aisle of the grocery store – all the versicolor branded cardboard boxes targeting kids as well as the multigrain oats or muesli varieties.

While the extreme version of this trend is the Paleo diet, which abstains from all carbohydrates introduced during and after the agricultural revolution starting some 12 millennia ago, most of us will adapt our diets in smaller ways – not touching the perfunctory bread basket before dinner, switching from pasta to a salad bowl for lunch or moving away from cereals for breakfast. Focusing on this third example, there’s an interesting fallout effect whereby these sugary morning foods are finding new life as an indulgent dessert.

Beyond bran

While the rolled oats, chia seed and bran products are still deemed healthy and a good source of fiber, most of the more conventional cereals containing more than a reasonable dollop of refined sugar are under intense scrutiny (as are almost all other foods with proven links to type 2 diabetes). As such, the consensus is shifting whereby they are no longer seen as part of a balanced breakfast. While this could indicate that this whole class of foods is destined for the scrapheap, formative chefs are instead playing upon their glucose-rich compositions to craft some very inventive sweets.

Bringing this trend to your attention means that you could evolve your foodservice operations in one of two directions. First, knowing that the demand for these heavily ‘frosted’ cereals is waning, introducing healthier options for the breakfast buffet and for the a la carte menu will increase meal satisfaction, which in turn will reflect positively on your hotel. Important to remember here is that just as these processed breakfast foods are starting to decline in popularity, the rates of gluten intolerance and celiac disease are on the high, meaning that you are all but required to reengineer your menu to accommodate guests with these hypersensitivities.

On the other hand, though, this movement towards indulgence gives you the chance to have some fun! The word ‘crunch’ is often proscribed to these foods and that textural quality of dry cereals works delightfully well when mixed into a smoother, chewier dessert, helping you put a new spin on just about any sweet your pastry chefs choose to create. As a hotelier, you must also consider yourself to be a culinary leader of sorts, and this trend is yet another opportunity for you to differentiate your restaurants and give any visitor something exciting or novel to try.

Before you dive into the challenge of developing a slate of indulgent desserts that incorporate breakfast cereals, I’d end with two examples from various trendsetters for inspiration. Foremost is the trademarked Cereal Milk from Momofuku’s Milk Bar subsidiary. While wheat puff milkshakes have been popular in Cuban cuisine for awhile now (known as a ‘Batido de Trigo’ or, literally, wheat smoothie), this acclaimed New York-based restaurant empire takes the combination of a milk base with corn flake residue to the next level, using the branded sugar additive or some other form of it for soft serve ice cream, birthday cake truffles and shakes (also trademarked, this time as a Milkquake).

Second is a small biscuit producer out of Chicago called Big Fat Cookie that, as but one confectionary iteration, infuses cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch into their chocolate chip cookies. While I am not a native to Chicago and have only encountered these dessert wizards through my travels to the Windy City, I dare you to peruse the company’s Instagram and not start drooling. A broad takeaway from going the ‘crazy’ route that Big Fat Cookie has taken is that your culinary creations will generate good buzz to in turn propel your hotel’s reputation.

No doubt there are others from around the world as I have kept these in a largely North American context. Ultimately, this trend serves as yet another possible way for you to distinguish your dessert selection. Challenge your team to reinvent what offers as your customers will reward such innovation with their wallets!