Chicken is hot, but the proteins that are growing the most on menus are actually pork, beef and fish products. Read on to uncover the four proteins gaining the most momentum, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, which reflect macro trends in today’s industry, including sustainability and global fare.
1. Pork butt
Pork butt is shouldering its way to the top, as mentions of pork butt—which is the most common cut used for pulled pork—increased 66.7% over the last year.
One of many Southern comfort food items increasing on menus, pork butt (and pulled pork in general) has flourished at top chains in recent years. Restaurants menuing pork butt, which actually comes from the upper shoulder, range from Fado Irish Pub to Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Using a cheeky play on words, the latter concept describes its Just The Pork Sandwich as featuring “A pork’s butt… no wait, pork butt (butt perfection).”
Spanish chistorra could be poised to follow on the heels of popular chorizo, which has inundated chains from White Castle to Houlihan’s in recent years. Mentions of chistorra, a fast-cure sausage, are up 37.5% over the last year.
Two-fifths of consumers (40%) are interested in trying pork dishes made with ethnic flavors and ingredients, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report. Chistorra is boldly flavored with garlic, salt and paprika and can be prepared a variety of ways, including baked, fried or grilled. Spain-based chain 100 Montaditos (with four Florida sites and one Washington, D.C., location) serves chistorra on a number of sandwiches.
More than two-thirds of consumers (67%) are more likely to buy seafood that’s sustainable, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report. This preference is leading many restaurants to add various “trash” fish to their menus, including mullet. Mentions of mullet increased 22.2% over the last year. The fish range in size from a half-pound to 4 pounds and have firm white flesh with a mild, nutlike flavor. They can be fried, baked, broiled or poached. Saagar Fine Cuisine of India in Newport Beach, Calif., serves grey mullet with roasted Jerusalem artichokes, autumn greens and a red wine butter sauce.
Mentions of wagyu beef—a Japanese breed known for its superior quality and subsequent high cost—are up 18.9% over the last year.
More than half of consumers think beef described as premium is tastier (63%) and healthier (52%), according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report, and many are willing to pay more for premium beef products like wagyu. Although it’s not surprising that most Top 500 chains that offer wagyu are fine-dining steak brands like Morton’s The Steakhouse—which unveiled a seasonal American Wagyu Ribeye Steak this year—some limited-service spots like BurgerFi are offering the option in burger blends.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.