The restaurant industry is already highly competitive, but amid high inflation, rising interest rates, and staffing and supply chain shortages, it’s no surprise operators are feeling the pressure. Additionally, as margins shrink, it’s become increasingly important to not only draw in and retain more customers, but also to increase check sizes to bring in revenue.
It’s no secret that striking the right balance of menu offerings is crucial to drawing in customers, and its menu offerings is one of the major operational elements entirely under the control of the restaurant brand. Yet a recent online survey conducted by Datassential on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) highlights a major menu opportunity for quick-service brands.
Notably, the survey found 59 percent of customers want to increase their seafood consumption. Meanwhile, the majority of customers—54 percent—want to see more seafood on quick-service restaurant menus. Additionally, only 42 percent of consumers are satisfied with seafood offerings in the quick-service space, leaving many opportunities for restaurants to create innovative LTOs featuring seafood. This is particularly true among diners who want to reduce their red meat consumption, as the survey found 61 percent of consumers believe fish or seafood is healthier than plant-based meat alternatives.
Leah Krafft, foodservice marketing manager at ASMI doesn’t find these results surprising. “Diners know how healthy seafood is and believe it to be much healthier than plant-based meat alternatives,” she says. “I think there is just so much noise about plant-based dishes, but, in reality, the desire is for seafood on the menu. It’s the number one protein diners want when avoiding meat or reducing meat consumption.”
Yet the type of fish available on a restaurant menu is also important to consumers. Datassential reports consumer preference for Alaska seafood has grown since 2019, and items labeled “Alaska seafood” are now preferred two-to-one over seafood that is not labeled as “Alaska.” In fact, the study found 91 percent of diners were more likely to order seafood when “Alaska” is called out on the menu, meaning marketing the origin of seafood could be a significant boon to restaurants.
”Consumers see Alaska seafood as fresh, wild, and tasty, as well as offering strong health benefits,” Krafft says. “And consumers prefer the term ‘wild’ over ‘farm-raised’. ‘Wild’ boosts interest likely since it’s seen as more climate-friendly. Emphasizing how Alaska seafood is wild-caught helps establish Alaska’s connection to these key criteria in consumers’ minds.”
With these lessons in mind, adopting Alaska seafood can help quick-service restaurants generate positive consumer sentiment, as well as drive sales. Additionally, with a wide variety of fish hailing from Alaska, operators have nearly endless menu options.
“With inflation and increased costs to today’s operator and diner, menuing seafood is still an important answer to consumer demand for eating healthy, delicious foods,” Krafft says. “There are affordable ways to menu seafood without sacrificing on innovation. It’s clear that menuing and calling out ‘Wild-caught Alaska’ is of the utmost benefit to operators.”
To learn more or find menu inspiration, visit alaskaseafood.org.
By Peggy Carouthers