The competitive landscape for restaurants is tough, with already-tight margins getting squeezed even tighter. As operators streamline their menus and inventory, cross-utilization is more essential than ever.
When it comes to menu versatility, beef is a star player. A few ounces go a long way in adding premium appeal to your menu and dollar margins.
The Butcher’s Table, a Seattle restaurant-butcher shop hybrid, offers a textbook argument for beef’s multiple menu personalities: the menu lists more than a dozen styles to satisfy diverse tastes, including steak salad and cheesesteak sandwiches; rice and pasta prepared with Wagyu sausage; brisket on sandwiches and in mac ‘n cheese; fries and brioche made with beef fat; ribeye, ribeye cap, filet, New York strip, porterhouse, flat iron, coulotte, and teres major steaks in sizes for every appetite and wallet; steak flights; roasted bone marrow as an appetizer and soup flavor booster; carpaccio; and more.
That level of commitment to beef isn’t for every operator, but beef does bring a lot to the table in terms of appeal and adaptability. The most versatile cuts of beef include:
Cuck can be broken down into steaks or roasts, roasted and sliced for cheese steak sandwiches, or shredded for barbecue or Mexican appetizers, entrees and sandwiches. Many chefs have long considered chuck the go-to grind for burgers, although blends of various beef cuts are increasingly common.
Brisket works sliced in sandwiches and salads; it can also be cured and simmered for corned beef, shredded for tacos, smoked for barbecue or sliced for use in fajitas or pastas. Last summer, the Johnny Rockets chain offered several wildly popular smoked brisket LTOs, including a barbecued brisket burger and barbecued brisket loaded street tots, both topped with smoked brisket, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce. According to the 2016 Usage and Volumetric Assessment of Beef in Foodservice Study, the continued popularity of brisket contributed 20% to the 48 million lb. overall growth of beef roasts.
Rub cuts run the gamut, from luxurious and intensely flavored ribeye cap and steaks that lend themselves to upscale fajitas, ramen and sandwiches, to rustic back ribs suitable for smoking and spit roasting. Sales of rib steak cuts increased by 2 million lbs. in 2016.
Loin cuts include t-bone, strip and porterhouse steaks, filets and other center-of-the-plate applications; which lend a premium cachet to stirfries, kebabs and sandwiches. Tenderloin steaks are the top sellers at chef-restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G Steakhouse locations; he calls tenderloin “the friendliest cut” because it marries well with so many flavors. Traditionally a steakhouse classic, filet mignon (tenderloin steaks) led the growth in the pre-cut steak category with a year-overyear increase of 13 MM lbs. in 2016 in restaurant segments like full service dining as well as beyond restaurant sectors such as lodging and recreation.
Sirloin can be divided into steaks, filets and more. The popular tri-tip from the bottom Sirloin works as a steak entree, sliced thinly for sandwiches, salads and burritos, in barbecued beef sandwiches and in pasta preparations. At Barrel & Ashes in Los Angeles, chef Tim Hollingsworth dry rubs, marinates and quickly sears tri-tip before slowly cooking it over a wood fire. The meat is sliced and served with arugula, chopped tomato, onion, avocado and a vinaigrette
Round subprimal cuts in wide use include top round, ideal for roasts, steaks, kebabs, stir-fries and fajitas; and eye of round, excellent in sandwiches, soups, and stews.
These ideas merely scratch the surface. When it comes to beef’s role on the menu, the possibilities are virtually limitless. USDA data shows that total per capita beef consumption in 2018 is projected to rebound by at least 6.7% from 2015 lows offering operators more opportunity to showcase this versatile ingredient in new ways for their guests.
This post is sponsored by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to The Beef Checkoff