The weak economy hasn’t just reduced restaurant traffic; it has influenced diners’ choices in entrees. Many consumers are bypassing beef for less expensive proteins such as chicken, says Darren Tristano, EVP at food-service consultants Technomic. When ordering beef -- and especially steak -- explains Tristano, they expect more quality, better cuts, aging, and seasonings to justify paying a higher cost. Their expectations are reflected in emerging flavor and preparation trends and in menu descriptions.
These and other findings are detailed in two new reports in Technomic’s Center of the Plate series, the Poultry Consumer Trend Report, and Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report. Based on more than 3,000 consumer interviews and analysis of about 500 restaurant brand menus, the reports examine changing consumer protein preferences, attitudes toward health and food safety issues, and their effects on purchase behavior, plus emerging trends in flavor, preparation and presentation. Select findings include:
- More than three out of five consumers think that turkey (64 percent) and chicken (61 percent) are healthier than beef or pork.
- Among emerging full-service chains and independent restaurants, the top three preparation methods for beef were “cut” (as in hand-cut, center-cut or barrel-cut) at 16.7 percent, “grilled” (13.3 percent) and “aged” (12.4 percent). These were often used together in describing specific beef entrees.
- Though consumers say they would like to order more ethnic and regional chicken dishes, restaurants have not yet met growing demand. Operators have increased their offerings of bolder, globally-inspired poultry dishes, but menu analysis reveals there is even more room for growth.
Compared to the population at large, both students and Canadians displayed interesting differences, including: