Higher ingredient costs will continue to plague restaurant operators in 2023, forcing them to streamline menus, according to several foodservice industry experts.
Their overall outlook for seafood on U.S. restaurant menus in 2023 is mixed, even as restaurant chains start out the new year with new seafood offerings.
“We expect seafood to continue to have a relatively flat operator penetration rate of change on restaurant menus over the next two years,” Katie Belflower, associate editor for foodservice research firm Technomic, told SeafoodSource.
Prices on seafood menu items have risen an average of 1.3 percent over the past year (from the third quarter of 2021 through the third quarter of 2022) and the increase could be higher in 2023 as inflation elevates menu prices, Belflower said.
Ingredient costs are expected to remain high throughout 2023, so restaurant operators will streamline menus and create dishes with new ingredients to preserve value for guests, the National Restaurant Association said in a press release.
Similar to 2022, restaurants overall are expected to continue to experience growth in 2023, according to Belflower.
“The main reason will be that menu prices continue to rise as inflation is expected to remain at elevated levels, with overall traffic expected to remain flat as recessionary pressures prevail,” she said.
There is pent-up demand among Americans for gathering together and dining out, according to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2023 Culinary Forecast. NRA’s survey of 500 professional chefs found that 70 percent believe customers want in-restaurant experiences for socialization, celebration, and culinary exploration.
“Overall, cravings for restaurant dining are proving resilient amid inflationary pressures and customers are hungry to connect over shared meals that can’t easily be replicated at home,” NRA said in a press release.
Seafood-centric restaurants could perform better than the market at large given their unique menu positioning and differentiated value propositions, according to Belflower.
Despite increased costs, the number of seafood dishes on menus has remained relatively flat over the past year, rising only 0.3 percent, according to Technomic.
“[Sales] are holding steady over the past year, but have still not bounced back to prior Covid-19 levels,” Datassential Associate Director of Content Claire Conaghan told SeafoodSource.
Conaghan predicted restaurant seafood sales will hold steady or inch up slightly in 2023.
“The challenge is of course that many seafood options are higher in cost, which can be difficult as consumers continue to focus on budgeting,” Conaghan said. “That said, we learned from the Covid-19 data we fielded … seafood is something many prefer to get at restaurants versus prepar[ing] at home, so there should still be bright spots for more budget-friendly preparations, especially those that consumers are intimidated to do at home – things like sushi [or] steaming mussels.”
According to Conaghan, seafood items that have seen an uptick in popularity on U.S. restaurant menus recently include salmon belly, black sea bass, langoustine, and blackened preparations. Technomic found sturgeon (up 5.3 percent), rock shrimp (4.3 percent higher), and haddock (up 3.7 percent) to be the three seafood species with the biggest growth rates in terms of their appearances on U.S. restaurant menus over the past year. Plant-based fish analogs, with appearances on 37.6 percent more menus in the U.S. year-over-year, topped Technomic’s ranking of the fastest-growing proteins in popularity on U.S. restaurant menus.
Trending flavors include Southeast Asian and Caribbean cuisines and comfort foods with a twist, NRA found. And it said charcuterie boards are doing well, as they “demonstrate the type of satisfying, shared dining experience that more guests are expected to seek out in 2023.”
To kick off 2023, two major U.S. seafood chains are introducing new items focused on value and fresh flavors. Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.-based Red Lobster is kicking off the new year with new value offering: Dockside Duos, allowing customers to mix and match between five starters and five entrées for USD 15.99 (EUR 15). The entrees consumers can choose from include: Parrot Isle Coconut Shrimp, Cajun Chicken Linguini Alfredo, Fish and Chips, Bacon Cheeseburger, and Entrée Caesar Salad (served with chicken or shrimp).
Irvine, California, U.S.A.-based Pokeworks is touting its new Flame-Cooked Miso Sesame Salmon Bowl, which it is marketing as a health-conscious choice. The dish includes made-to-order, flame-cooked salmon mixed with cucumber, sweet onion, edamame, hijiki seaweed, and a proprietary miso sesame sauce, Pokeworks said in a press release.
“Salmon is a ‘superfood,’ providing loads of protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, contributing to great overall health.,” Pokeworks said.
Photo courtesy of Pokeworks