It’s easy to think of barbecue as a something you’d find at a small barbecue shack or barbecue-centric chain, but according to a recently released report from food industry research firm Datassential, more than half of all restaurants across the country include some type of barbecue item on the menu.

Datassential’s MenuTrends Keynote Report on Barbecue and Southern found that approximately 60 percent of quick serve, casual, and midscale restaurants offer a barbecue item on their menus. More than one-third of fine dining restaurants carry a barbecue item, and that’s a percentage that’s growing.

Barbecue has a wide appeal with over 95 percent of Americans saying they like barbecue, and nearly one-third saying that eat barbecue or barbecue-sauced foods in any given week. Seventy-two percent of consumers considered barbecue to be great for family gatherings or celebrations, and, not surprisingly, 64 percent had their most recent barbecue at home.

For consumers, the meat/proteins are the most important factor in making a “truly great” barbecue and while chicken, pork, and beef remain the most commonly found meats on menus, duck, pig, and seafood are the fastest growing barbecued-paired proteins.

Restaurant operators are adding new flavors and preparations; seventeen percent said they plan to add more barbecue items in the coming year. Maple and buttermilk are the two fastest growing flavors that are being added to barbecue menus, with 36 percent and 33 percent growth, respectively. One in ten operators offer some form of ethnic barbecue on their menus and, of those offering ethnic varieties, Korean, and Mexican are the most common offerings.

“A unique retail item for single-serve barbecue at home are wood papers, which impart a wood flavor without a grill or smoker,” says Brian Darr, Datassential’s managing director. “Specialty stores, like Williams-Sonoma and Outset, are offering these thin sheets of wood which wrap around poultry, beef or seafood to add a subtle, smoky flavor while keeping the food moist and tender.”

In addition to an in-depth menu analysis of barbecue flavors, ingredients, and trends, the report also examined the menu presence of Southern comfort foods, including entrées, sides, and desserts. The most popular entrées for consumers are Southern-style fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and chicken-fried steak, while strawberry shortcake, peach cobbler, and pecan pie top the list of consumer favorite Southern desserts.

The report detailed consumer habits, preferences and motivation at home and in restaurants, which provided insights with direct implications for both foodservice and retail segments. Overall, the responses of 1,000 consumers and over 300 operators were analyzed and combined with the industry’s largest database of restaurant menus, the findings then presented in over 130 pages of tables, charts, and analysis.

Consumer Trends, News