Leading restaurants are expanding the protein selection on their menus by offering more pork dishes, according to foodservice consultants Technomic.
With a 7 percent increase in menu mentions over the past year, pork is now being showcased in appetizers, entrees, and sides. This protein suits the trend of using rustic, natural ingredients, from Chipotle’s use of naturally raised pork for its carnitas to Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants’ new All-Natural Iowa Pork Tenderloin Medallions with a maple, mustard, and pretzel crust.
The findings are part of Technomic’s ongoing examination of menu additions to leading independent and chain restaurant menus, which are collected quarterly and are available on Technomic’s searchable online MenuMonitor  database.
“Restaurants are using pork more often in main dishes and as an accompanying ingredient in menu items for various reasons," says Bernadette Noone, director, Technomic MenuMonitor. “First, the higher cost of beef has made pork a nice substitute in combo dishes. Where customers were once seeing chicken and beef on the menu, they may now see more affordable chicken and pork dishes. The popularity of bacon is another key factor. For the last few years we've seen bacon-related menu items increase by over 7 percent annually.”
A look at recent pork dishes reveals that bacon, sausage, and ham are the most common pork ingredients on menus.
The data also show that pork is increasingly being used in combination with other proteins. Pork saw a 15 percent increase in shellfish dishes, 13 percent in chicken dishes, and 8 percent in both beef dishes and burger dishes during the second quarter of 2011.
The pork trend crosses mealparts, with many types of pork being featured in new dishes. A sample of new pork items includes:
- BBQ Spare Ribs & Pork Roast at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
- Country Style Pork Cutlet at Max & Erma’s
- Mojo Roast Pork at Pollo Tropical
- Red Beans & Rice with Andouille sausage at Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
- Wood Grilled Chorizo Sliders at Bahama Breeze
- Memphis BBQ Skins with pulled pork at Chili’s Grill & Bar