By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 17 March, 2013
Even though U.S. family-style restaurants are offering more fresh seafood dishes, guests are looking for more healthy items, including seafood.
The availability of healthful, nutritious food is important to 52 percent of diners at family-style eateries and 61 percent would pay more for “fresh” foods, according to consulting firm Technomic’s new Family-Style Restaurant Consumer Trend Report. In addition, 36 percent would be willing to pay up to five percent more for seasonal foods.
“We are seeing that trend overall with diners: people are defining healthy as ‘whole’ and ‘wholesome’ more than they used to. When people see ‘low fat’ or ‘low cholesterol’, it means that something has been taken away,” Mary Chapman, director of product innovation for Technomic, told SeafoodSource.
When asked about their “unmet needs” at family-style restaurants, consumers said they are looking for more seafood items as well as Mexican and Asian dishes. In fact, 20 percent of guests who dine less often at family-style eateries say they do so because “they are trying to eat healthy and there are not healthy items there,” Chapman said.
At the same time, family-style eateries have expanded their menus to include many more seafood items, including grilled and baked fish, seafood tacos, fish sandwiches and wraps, and other dishes. In the fourth quarter of 2012, family-style restaurants that Technomic tracks added nearly 30 seafood dishes. “So many of these new items are fish tacos. What an easy way to make a new item out of the cod or whatever fish you are using,” Chapman said.
Some of the recent seafood entrée launches include: Grilled salmon dinner from Country Pride Restaurant, rainbow trout Almondine and Mediterranean tilapia from TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli, Cabo spicy fish tacos dinner deal from Black Bear Diner, and cilantro lime cod wrap from Country Kitchen.
Notably, many of the recently-launched seafood dishes include descriptions about where the seafood was caught, such as “U.S. farm-raised catfish” in the Karl’s catfish plate from Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q. “There are also more ‘fresh’ and ‘natural’ descriptors on menus. Consumers across the board are starting are starting to appreciate those kinds of descriptions and the fact that restaurants are offering those items,” Chapman said.