1. Fishing for Customers with Seafood
Heads up, fried fish. Your days as king of restaurant seafood maybe numbered. The amount of fried fish being ordered at restaurants is declining. According to the latest data from Nations Restaurant News and The NPD Group, health-conscious consumers are more often forgoing fried fish in favor of fish that is baked, broiled, grilled, or raw.
According to the data, those who most frequently order seafood are over the age of 49 and have household incomes above $75,000. Consumption is heaviest in the Northeast and South, regions close to bodies of water. Consumers’ increased consumption is credited to the product’s perceived health benefits and increased promotions from fullservice eateries.
Although there are a lot of fish in the sea, one problem is that many varieties aren’t making it onto restaurant menus. As an alternative to such pricier fish as salmon, halibut, and sea bass, operators could look into using other less expensive options.
2. Consumers Showing More Interest in Seafood
Restaurateurs and research from NRN confirm that consumers are showing more interest in certain types of fish and shellfish. Many health-conscious consumers recognize that fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients and are an important part of a healthful diet. The United States’ Food and Drug Administration’s Dietary Guidelines have also boosted demand—which recommend that 20 percent of protein intake come from seafood.
Customers are demanding more information on where their seafood comes from. Customers want to know where it was caught, how it was caught, and any pertinent information about the fishery or type of fish.
Menu research firm Datassential lists more than 80 seafood items that are appearing on more menus now versus a year ago. Many of those items, such as striped bass, are starting from a relatively low base, and appear on fewer than 2% of all menus monitored by Datassential. But others, such as tilapia and grilled salmon, have shown sustained growth in recent years.
Salmon is on 40% of menus monitored by Datassential, but that has grown by just 0.7% over the past year. Mussels appear on 16.5% of menus, a 1.2% increase.
3. Will Consumers Pay More for Local, Sustainable Food?
Will your customers choose to come to your restaurant if they know you are offering local and sustainable ingredients? With customer interest in sustainability growing, and the competition among restaurants becoming increasingly fierce, it is critically important that you communicate with your customers regarding your sustainability initiatives. This is one more way that you can differentiate yourself from the competition.
And there is an added bonus. Research is finding that almost half (43%) of diners say they would pay up to 10% more for a meal in a sustainable restaurant, according to new research from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).
The survey also found that more than half (56%) of diners would pay more for a meal if they knew the restaurant was investing in reducing its environmental impact and taking its social responsibility seriously.
Many customers are saying that they expect more expensive restaurants to have better sustainability performance, but they feel that the restaurants are not doing enough to inform them about what they’re doing to improve it. If you make a point of purchasing fresh, seasonal, and local food, and if you are committed to the core principles of sustainability, than you really want to make sure that you share this with your customers. Add it to your menu, blackboard it with your specials, and train your wait staff to talk about it. You will be surprised how important this is to your customers too.
4. Shrimp Continues to Rule While Scallops Gain Popularity
Shrimp, America’s favorite crustacean, remains a menu mainstay this year, often paired with other seafood, chicken, or beef. But the scallop is the mollusk of the moment. Seared scallops are one of the fastest-growing seafood entrées on menus, according to Datassential MenuTrends, which tracks more than one million different menu items at more than 7,000 chain and independent restaurants. As an entrée, seared scallops appear on 41 percent more menus than they did just two years ago.
5. Chef’s Preference for Cultivated Oysters Grows
A century of overharvesting, disease, and declining water quality have dramatically reduced the natural oyster population in U.S. waterways. Aquaculture has taken over where nature left off, and today 95% of oysters consumed around the globe are farmed. Fortunately, the sustainability and quality of farm-raised shellfish has proven to be beneficial not only for the restaurants that serve them, but also for oyster growers and the environment.
Oysters naturally improve the environment around them by efficiently filtering out excess nutrients in the water, contributing to better water quality where they grow. Cultivating oysters in trays or plastic net bags raised above the ocean floor provides greater access to free-flowing nutrients, allows them to filter more water, and enables them to grow faster and have different traits than bottom-grown oysters.
There is an increase in demand for oysters. Guests are becoming more knowledgeable about them and appreciate the nuances of the different varieties. Oysters appear on 3.6% more menus now than a year ago.
6. Asian and Latin Flavors Are Hot Trends for Seafood Dishes
Asian and Latin foods have become so popular on menus with customers that it is no surprise that the flavors from these dishes would cross over to some favorite seafood dish preparations.
According to research data gathered from Datassential, Asian flavor terms such as miso, wasabi, and jasmine were on the list of top-growing menu descriptors for seafood dishes. Favorite spicy Latin flavors that were also listed in the top ten included jalapeño and chipotle.
Ethnic flavors have continued to rise in popularity over the last few years, and this gives the restaurant chef an amazing opportunity to create inspiring new dishes with exciting new flavor combinations.
Seafood is the ideal delivery vehicles for these on-trend flavors. The variety of marinades, rubs, and sauces that can be created are fun and interesting. Utilize your creative talents to create the next new dish that will bring your customers back for more.