Research: Seafood holds its own with other proteins

Published on
January 30, 2013

Protein dishes — including seafood — were more popular in U.S. restaurants in 2012 than in 2011, according to new research.

After analyzing more than 250 million checks from restaurants and bars, foodservice research firm GuestMetrics found that protein dishes grew in sales by 2.1 percent in 2012, compared to non-protein dishes, which grew at a rate of 0.3 percent. Protein dishes accounted for 49 percent of restaurants’ food sales, compared to 51 percent for non-protein dishes.

Even though protein entrees cost more than non-protein dishes, the growing number of restaurant guests ordering appetizers with protein may have impacted the growth of all protein dishes, said Brian Barrett, president of GuestMetrics. GuestMetrics primarily surveys full-service restaurants that tend to serve upscale clientele, which could explain the popularity of seafood dishes, he added.

Seafood entrée sales, in particular, were strong in 2012, making up 29 percent of all protein entrée sales. Chicken also made up 29 percent of sales, beef made up 28 percent, and pork accounted for 9 percent, according to GuestMetrics.

“We were a bit surprised to see that seafood, chicken, and beef were on such equal footing in terms of share of protein in our restaurant universe,” Barrett said. At the same time, GuestMetrics found that 96.9 percent of the restaurants in its database carried seafood in 2012, compared to 96.8 percent in 2011. “There was a small increase in seafood penetration, and seafood items of some sort are carried almost ubiquitously in our universe,” Barrett said.

Seafood dishes with the largest growth in 2012 included salmon, oysters, grouper, and trout entrees, according to GuestMetrics. Even though oysters pricing (the retail price that restaurants charge guests) rose 15 percent on average, oyster dishes gained around 50 basis points of share. Salmon gained 45 basis points of share while pricing was up 2.2 percent. Grouper gained 15 basis points of share, and pricing rose 10 percent. While trout prices rose 4.5, the popular fish gained 15 basis points of share.

Bass, shrimp, clams, and tuna dishes suffered the greatest sales losses in 2012, GuestMetrics found. Shrimp lost a whopping 80 basis points of share, while pricing rose 6 percent. Clam prices rose 20 percent, and the shellfish lost 20 basis points of share. Bass lost around 20 basis points of share and pricing rose 5.6 percent, while tuna lost around 15 basis points of share and pricing rose 3 percent.

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