In stark contrast to full-service restaurants, U.S. quick-service and fast-casual restaurants are featuring fewer seafood dishes this year. However, the chains that have rolled out new seafood entrees in the second quarter of 2014 are appealing to Americans’ growing desire for spicy foods and healthier proteins, according to foodservice consulting firm Technomic.
“Consumers are becoming more adventurous with their dining habits, so that includes ethnic cuisines, which are generally more spice-forward. There is also a greater interest in bolder flavors in general, and spice goes with that,” Lizzy Frier, editor at Technomic, told SeafoodSource. “Seafood in particular is a good platform for introducing spicy flavors because it is generally a lighter option, and light pairs well with bold flavors.”
Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen carried Cracked Pepper Butterfly Shrimp marinated in Louisiana seasonings and cooked with salt and peppercorn for a limited time this summer. Likewise, Pei Wei Asian Diner has added a line of sushi to its menu, including a Sriracha Spicy Tuna Roll, and Tropical Smoothie Café recently rolled out Mojo Fish Tacos.
However, in the second quarter of 2014, new shellfish dish entrees decreased 2.1 percent and fish dish entres declined 0.8 percent at fast food and fast casual restaurants. This could be partly because fewer chains are launching new sushi dishes. Sushi menu introductions at quick-serve and fast casual eateries dropped 6 percent in the second quarter of 2014, compared to the first quarter of 2014.
“I don't think that sushi is necessarily something to look at as a trend that will be happening at many restaurants outside of Asian. Sushi requires a lot of ingredients that are Asian restaurant-specific and it is more time-consuming,” Frier said.
At the same time, quick-service and fast casual chains are continuing to roll out seafood options in order to provide a healthier protein, or simply an option that is not chicken, beef, or pork, according to Frier.
The line of seafood items that Long John Silver’s launched in mid-July include some lighter options such as Seafood Salad and Seafood Salad Sandwiches. Pret a Manger also introduced a Maine Lobster Roll and Maine Lobster Salad in July and Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Café rolled out Wild Pacific Salmon on Multigrain and Wild Pacific Salmon with Kale and Soba Noodles.