According to Datassential, 71% of consumers describe themselves as meat eaters, and 55% say they plan on staying meat eaters in the future. While plant-based foods have significantly grown in popularity, the carnivorous category still has a dominant place on the menu.
When the holiday season arrives, these consumers crave meat-focused, center-of-the-plate classics such as steak, roast, and short ribs but this is also a great opportunity to try something new. With the high expectation for meat items this time of year, differentiate your restaurant by serving distinct cuts of meat, creative applications, and upgrades on the classics. Gather inspiration from these trending ideas and concepts that will resonate with customers both during and after the holiday season.
Meat that Makes the Cut
The National Restaurant Association named “new cuts of meat” as the number one trend for 2018 in its What’s Hot culinary forecast. Meet the growing demand for low cost, versatile, less-familiar cuts of meat with shoulder tender, sirloin bavette, coulotte, petite sirloin, Denver, and tri-tip roast. Chefs and diners shouldn’t let a name they don’t recognize keep them from utilizing or trying something new, so encourage customers to order alternative cuts by incorporating hints of on-trend, ethnic flavors. For example, bavette, meaning bib in French referring to “thin meats,” is a boneless cut with a hearty texture. Bowery’s Steakhouse in New York, NY, gives its Charred Bavette Steak Mexican flair by serving it with Asada marinade and roasted spring onions. Known as one of the top 10 most tender cuts of beef, coulotte is a lean piece of meat that’s easy to prepare and is perfect for menu presentations similar to sirloin steak. Pan-sear coulotte coated with Katy’s Kitchen Steak Seasonings, and serve it with trending items such as braised greens, apple-chipotle BBQ sauce, Carolina BBQ aioli, mac and cheese, and maple-bacon cornmeal biscuits.
Petite sirloin and shoulder tender are two more value-added cuts that are versatile and cost-effective. Highlight shoulder tender with familiar seasonal flavors by braising in pumpkin stout and pairing with spicy rapini, Parmesan, and pine nuts or creamy amaranth and pumpkin polenta. The Denver steak, cut from the chuck/shoulder, is an incredibly tender, juicy alternative cut that has a good amount of marbling. Grill or sauté and enhance the beefy essence with seasonal flavors such as rosemary-infused smoked salt and serve with smoked bacon wrapped haricot vert.
Short ribs, a holiday classic, are excellent when braised, offering irresistible, fall-off -the-bone meat. According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, short rib volume in the foodservice industry was up 23 million pounds in 2017. With customers’ high demand for this versatile cut, chefs must display their creativity to make their short rib preparation stand out. Differentiate your offering by serving braised short ribs with Asian chimichurri, red cabbage, and potato-parsnip pancakes. The Mojo Short Rib from Maines signature brand Esposito is a satisfying cut that is intended to offer an edgy, striking presentation with a tender texture and deep, rich flavor. As your partner, Maines can help your operation adjust to serving new cuts of meat with innovative custom butchers that can give your plates variability and diversity.
Raise the Steaks with Global Flavors
According to Mintel, 20% of diners say they’d be motivated to try an unfamiliar flavor when paired with a familiar format. As one of the top trending cuisines of 2018, try incorporating Middle Eastern spices like cumin and cinnamon into alternative cuts. Consider experimenting with up and coming blends like berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend of ginger, basil, chili peppers, and garlic. You can also highlight dukkah, an Egyptian-inspired blend of herbs, nuts, and spices including sesame, coriander, and cumin. According to Technomic Inc., 47% of consumers find Japanese cuisine very appealing. Attract these consumers and those drawn to spicy flavors by kicking up the heat on beef with togarashi, an intriguing Asian alternative to chili flakes. Ethnic flavors are a crucial driver in menu development and can add international flair to your signature holiday menu.
House-made sauces, a top-trend of 2018 showing no sign of decline, are an excellent way to maximize profits and enhance the appeal of meat offerings. Boost the value perception of steak with a boozy mezcal-tamarind sauce or highlight seasonality with a gingered carrot-parsnip purée or blood orange-maple syrup glaze. Another strategy to widen your customer base is to create house-made sauces that attract those with special diets or restrictions such as dairy-free roasted onion cream sauce.
Even though some diners crave meat-heavy dishes for the festive season, it’s important to showcase a bit of freshness and seasonality. For example, you can incorporate the buzz of produce into a meat-centric dish by pairing it with pickled black grapes with thyme and creamy truffle butter-cauliflower mash. Umami-rich toppings can also heighten meat items without distracting from the beef’s rich flavor. Dress up your beef with sweet caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, and miso-truffle butter.
Contemporary Twists on Classic Cuts
Don’t discount the classics – many patrons are searching for conventional entrées with contemporary twists. Give Beef Wellington, a tried-and-true holiday favorite, a modern upgrade by showcasing pan-seared beef tenderloin over celery root purée and garnish with phyllo crisps and mushroom duxelles instead of baking the beef in pastry dough. Beef stroganoff can be transformed into a holiday signature by using petite sirloin, tossing with tarragon and hot mustard, and serving over Japanese soba noodles steamed in hot chili oil. Reconstructing traditional dishes creates a present day, refreshed feel that has more potential to pique diners’ interest, drive sales, and make your classics stand out.
Meat Marketing Messages
Meat products are a vital part of any menu, and many consumers are equally concerned about the meat products they consume as they are vegetables. Make sure your staff is trained on all the traditional and alternative cuts you serve so when they interact with customers, they can share the story behind the meat, whether it’s grass-fed, natural, organic, or sourced from a local purveyor. When menuing less common beef varieties, imitate old-school neighborhood butchers by educating guests on the different cuts and their qualities. Informing your customers and being transparent with your meat’s narrative builds trust and ultimately, drives sales.
It’s essential that your holiday-inspired meat-centric entrées are diverse and add value to your restaurant. As you promote these items, be sure to highlight the meat’s attributes and tell the story of the dish. Whether it’s utilizing new cuts, giving a traditional plate a modern twist, or highlighting global influences, make your bold meat offerings the reason customers choose to dine at your restaurant this festive season and for years to come.