Industry News | August 27, 2012

Only 23% of Consumers Satisfied with Ethnic Offerings

Consumers may not have the means to travel the world, but that hasn't dampened their desire to experience new ethnic cuisines.

Unfortunately, chain restaurants aren't meeting current consumer demand for new foods and flavors. Only a quarter of consumers polled for a recent Technomic survey say they are satisfied with the availability of ethnic offerings at limited-service (23 percent) and full-service (28 percent) chains, which translates into opportunities for operators to differentiate their menus and gain market share with globally inspired offerings.

“Authenticity is crucial to the ethnic food and beverage purchasing decision” says Technomic’s Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. “Sixty-five percent of consumers say food that tastes authentic is one of the most important factors in deciding which establishment to visit for ethnic foods and beverages. Operators have an opportunity to create innovative and globally inspired menu items reflected through preparation, taste, and flavor. Consumers also say that dishes prepared by someone from that region are given greater credibility as authentic.”

To help operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry more effectively understand consumer behavior, definitions, preferences, and attitudes towards ethnic flavors and cuisines, Technomic developed the “Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report.”

Interesting findings include:

  • Three out of four consumers (77 percent) purchase ethnic foods and flavors away from home at least once a month. The percentage is strongly driven by Asian and Hispanic respondents, with 90 and 88 percent of these consumers, respectively, purchasing ethnic food or flavors away from home at least once a month. 

  • Data indicates that cuisine does not need to be from another country to be considered ethnic; nearly nine out of 10 consumers consider regional U.S. cuisines such as Cajun (89 percent) and Creole (86 percent) cuisines to be ethnic.
  • 33 percent of consumers strongly agree that there are many ethnic foods they would like to order at restaurants but are not able to find. 

  • Southeast Asian flavors are moving into the mainstream with the development of familiar offerings with a flavorful Thai, Vietnamese, or Indonesian twist on sauces, dressings, and ingredients.

Technomic’s “Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report” examines consumer behavior, attitudes, and preferences toward ethnic flavors, foods, and beverages based on survey results from 1,500 consumers.

The Ethnic Cuisine Trends section provides a comprehensive guide to the trends that continue to shape ethnic flavors and foods. The report also features 20 emerging limited- and full-service restaurants that offer ethnic foods and beverages. 


This comes as no surprise to me. I've always noticed strong responses to ethnic menu items on menus. People want to be entertained as much as they want to be fed. I think full service restaurants have done fairly well in delivering some ethnic choices to consumers. Asian an Mexican restaurants, for example, are plentiful in most areas, with many sub-sections of Asian fare, such as Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, in most larger markets.I believe the greatest opportunity for restaurant investors lies in the development of quick service restaurants from different ethnic influences. In the midwest, quick service Asian restaurants have only been available outside of malls for the last 10 years. Mexican quick service restaurants (American Mexican really) have been around for quite awhile. Italian food has been around in QSRs for awhile. There is still lots of room in the market for many other ethnic foods though, like Indian, Thai, Korean, German, French, Creole, etc. Many of these foods are readily available in quick service fashion in their native regions or countries, and have even made it into some larger US markets, but there is still a lot of potential for growth in the entire ethnic QSR sector.

Restaurant owners have hired me to train chefs in various ethnic cuisines. My specialty in Asian cuisines is particularly important and intensive several days of training is usually sufficient for these restaurants to develop their own menu items. My background in Latin American as well as traditional French, Italian cuisines help in finding the perfect variety of dishes a restaurant wants for its customers.It's a great world of flavors out there, very exciting!

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