Popularity of seafood salads, appetizers grows


Mercedes Grandin, SeafoodSource contributing editor

Published on
May 25, 2009

Salads and appetizers containing seafood are an emerging trend at up-and-coming restaurants nationwide, according to Chicago foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic, which recently published three reports as part of its Left Side of the Menu series.

The reports — the Salad Consumer Trend Report, the Appetizer Consumer Trend Report and the Soup Consumer Trend Report — are based on more than 4,500 consumer interviews and analysis of the top 250 chain menus.

In the Emerging Chains and Top Independents category, salads with seafood beat out chicken and other proteins as the most frequently menued salads, with 143 out of 537 salad menu items containing seafood. Additionally, seafood salads were on the menu at 78 of 121 chains and 245 of 730 units.

“To justify spending on items from the left side of the menu, consumers want more value — dishes with unique flavors they can’t make at home or are large enough to share or eat as an entrée,” said Technomic Executive VP Darren Tristano.

Seafood salad menu items included Insalata di Mare with marinated  shrimp, calamari, mussels, lobster and sea scallops served over mache lettuce at New York’s Alfredo the Original of Rome; Sweet Shrimp and Crab Salad at Aquaknox in Las Vegas; Seafood Salad with scallops, squid, Japanese octopus, lobster, avocado and lemon vinaigrette at New York’s Gotham Bar and Grill; and a Chilled Maine Lobster Salad at Spago in Las Vegas.

Seafood appetizers are also an emerging trend. Technomic found that 108 out of 246 breaded protein appetizers contained seafood. In the non-breaded appetizer category, seafood made up 146 out of 207 menu items. The most popular sub-category within the non-breaded appetizer group was “Other Non-Breaded Shellfish,” a 66-item group that includes crab cakes, crab claws, steamed mussels and oysters.

“The non-breaded shellfish category is one that presents opportunities for menu development around flavor, since seafood accepts just about any flavor profile,” said the Technomic report.

Technomic found that non-breaded items outnumbered breaded appetizers, with shellfish beating out all other appetizers as the leading menu item in the Top 10 Appetizers List for Emerging and Independent Foodservice Restaurants.

Technomic also discovered that one-third of those surveyed say they order shrimp cocktail every time or most times they dine out and another 41 percent order the item on occasion. A majority of consumers sometimes order crab cakes (62 percent) and coconut shrimp (51 percent), while 41 percent of consumers sometimes order sushi as an appetizer.

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