From Boston: Five seafood profit-driving trends

By

Mary Smith

Published on
March 15, 2010

Aaron Noveshen, founder of The Culinary Edge, helped kick off day 2 of the show with an inspiring look at 5 profit-driving trends from America’s top independent restaurants. Here are his top picks:

Raw fish 

Noveshen notes that as sushi has continued to grow in popularity, so to have other raw fish preparations including crudo and ceviche. He citied a variety of restaurants nationwide that are serving innovative raw fish on menus, including Esca which Mario Batali opened in 2000. Credited with jumpstarting the success of crudo – after Esca opened crudo appeared on no less than 90 menus in NYC by 2010!

Ceviche is also continuing to gain followers, even among more mainstream restaurants, and as raw fish becomes more acceptable to the general public, we see it appearing more and more on menus in a variety of foams. Noveshen listed Taylor’s Automatic Refresher’s Ahi burgers, seared rare with ginger wasabi mayo and Asian slaw as a great example, along with The Cheesecake Factory’s ahi carpaccio, and seared tuna tataki salad. 

Whole Fish 

“Americans no longer afraid to look their food square in the eye” 

Plenty of independent restaurants are serving whole fish - Noveshen cited Molyvos Greek restaurant and Oceana – both in NYC – steaming, frying, roasting, and barbequing a variety of different whole fish in a global array of preparations.  He also took us to the high end – highlighting whole fish filleted tableside at Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare in Las Vegas. The service level is there is incredible – takes the worry and fear of how to enjoy a whole fish away from the customer. Another way to add whole fish to your menu is to follow the lead of Publican in Chicago who is featuring small whole fried fish like smelt and sardines on their menu. Easy to eat, fun to share and tasty!

Although this trend won’t go mainstream tomorrow it’s growing, especially in retail where we often see whole fish for sale.  Even mainstream restaurant chains are starting to get in on the act by offering whole, head on shrimp – which easily captures the spirit of the trend.

Also key – whole fish tells a good story; fish cooked on the bone retains flavor and moisture, shows honesty and transparency in freshness (and species).  Start with small fish on small plates – low risk for customers and great as a shared appetizer.

Fish Tacos

From Ensenada to Main Street - if Taco Bell and Long John Silvers are doing it, you know the fish taco trend has arrived!  Tacos are borrowing from the raw fish trend – try a tuna ceviche in a taco!  Restaurants combining cuisines and fish tacos are popping up everywhere; Bonefish Grill, California Pizza Kitchen.  Fish tacos have mass appeal…

Noveshen suggested looking at what can you do to switch it up – he described the taco as “a blank canvas for creativity” and encourages changing up the fish, the sauce, the fillings. Tacos can be healthy, have a low price point, are sharable and portable.

All-in-one-pot Feasts

You’ve seen the Joe’s Crab Shack Smoking Hot Steampot commercial? These fun, regionally inspired one pot meals are Noveshen’s #4 trend. Check out lobster and clam bakes, jambalaya, gumbos or more exotic one-pot meals from around the globe like Japan’s Ishikari Nabe.

A variety of chains getting in the game which customers love - it’s the kind of event people aren’t doing at home! Legal Seafoods is doing a New England lobster bake and Joe’s Crab Shack has 6 different options that come to the table in a fun tin bucket.

A great suggestion to suppliers or retail markets – offer a whole kit!  Fish, shellfish, vegetables, spices and sauce in and easy to re-theme format. It’s an easy opportunity to create a fun, communal experience – in restaurant or retail.

Sustainability

The final profit driving trend Noveshen focused on was how to harness the power of sustainability for your business. He recommends transparency and awareness and to work towards being able to acknowledge what your are doing well, and what you are working on. He mentioned a variety of restaurants having great success with sustainability messaging, including Tataki Sushi in San Francisco and Darden’s Environmental Stewardship Foundation.

No matter how you approach sustainability, work to ensure you have a strong point of view and your staff can articulate it. Education is the key!
 
Now, off to the show floor to see these 5 trends in action!

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