US millennials dine on adventurous seafood
While shrimp has traditionally been the most popular seafood on U.S. restaurant menus, shrimp dishes actually declined in the third quarter as Millennials sought out more adventurous dishes.
Shrimp apps and entrees dropped 4.7 percent – a decrease of 850 menu mentions – at restaurants tracked by foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic for the quarter ending 30 September.
“Shrimp is still a popular choice on menus and we will continue to see it on menus in the near future, but we are seeing a rise in more adventurous eaters among Millennials and Gen Z who are more likely to seek out food they haven’t tried before,” said Rachel Royster, senior coordinator of editorial content at Technomic. “Because shrimp is so prevalent on menus, the more adventurous eater might order calamari or crawfish instead of shrimp (which tends to be a mainstay item.”
In fact, there were 8.5 percent more octopus apps and entrees in restaurants in the third quarter, along with an increase in “other” shellfish dishes, which combinations of shellfish such as crab and scallops.
While shrimp dishes may have declined according to statistics, many restaurant operators are still doing very well with the popular shellfish. “Over the last two years, shrimp sales by far have had the highest growth over any other protein, including mahi and tilapia,” said Ralph Rubio, co-founder of Rubio’s Restaurants, which operates 194 Mexican restaurants. Rubio’s offers several varieties of shrimp tacos, burritos, salads and bowls.
Meanwhile, the biggest gainer for seafood on U.S. restaurant menus in the third quarter was sushi starters and apps, which spiked 38.5 percent. “Again, Millennials and Gen Z tend to flock to sushi because it’s more adventurous and versatile,” Royster said. “Plus, sushi is great as a sharing option—sharable menu options are really popular right now because younger people are going out with friends more than family, and are therefore seeking out sharable options.”
Another big gainer on restaurant menus in the third quarter was tilapia, which realized an increase of 13.5 percent. “Tilapia is a pretty versatile dish that pairs well with many flavors as well as on its own,” Royster said. At Kountry Folks in Riverside, Calif., tilapia is paired with Cajun spices and the fish is served either grilled with olive oil and sea salt or Cajun spices at Truffles Café in Bluffton, S.C.