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4 ways to take turkey beyond the burger

Turkey burgers have long been a popular alternative to beef, as they’re a better-for-you option and a great canvas for unique and interesting toppings. But increasingly, operators are turning to turkey for innovative as well as healthier takes on popular menu items.

From nutritious to indulgent, today’s takes on turkey offer consumers delicious alternatives and new flavors they’re sure to enjoy. According to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, 33% of consumers would order turkey more often if it were available, making turkey an area of opportunity for operators.

Check out these four ways operators are innovating with turkey.

On bar menus

Small bites and indulgent snacks on bar menus aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and thanks in part to the rising price of chicken wings, turkey is making its presence known for this meal part. To help expand appetizer and small bite options by using turkey instead of relying on chicken wings and tenders, many operators are offering nachos topped with ground turkey, turkey sliders, turkey quesadillas and more.

Breakfast substitutes

Overall, consumers are interested in turkey-based substitutes on breakfast menus, with 29% saying they’d be likely to order turkey as a protein in breakfast entrees. Additionally, turkey items in general are up 28% on breakfast menus, with turkey bacon (+13%) and turkey sausage (+12%) driving that growth, according to the Technomic report.

Beyond substitutes, turkey is also increasingly featured in healthier options, such as 5 & Diner’s Turkey and Spinach Omelette and 810 Deli & Cafe’s Protein Egg Whites Wrap, which includes grilled turkey and low-fat Swiss cheese on a wheat wrap.

Better-for-you comfort classics

In the Technomic report, half of consumers say that they think most types of chicken dishes would be just as good with turkey, and 26% say that if it was offered, they’d be likely to order turkey in place of chicken, beef or pork. With that in mind, reimagining comfort foods with turkey can offer customers craveable takes on classic favorites. Some operators are offering menu items such as:

  • Sloppy Dave’s BBQ Sliders at Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern, a casual-dining chain with locations in Indiana and Michigan. Diners can chow down on these slider-sloppy Joe mashups that feature farm-raised lean ground turkey, smoked gouda and Santa Fe chipotle sauce.
  • 3 Star Diner’s turkey Reuben lightens up this classic panini by using roast fresh turkey on grilled rye bread with sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese.

Other turkey-fied classics include turkey pot pie and turkey chili.

Kids menus

Turkey is even showing up on kids menus. It’s being adapted into burrito and taco fillings, and items such as turkey hot dogs offer a better-for-you substitute for traditional beef or pork hot dogs. Turkey meatballs are also popular on kids menus, typically featured in spaghetti and meatball dishes.

According to the Technomic report, 36% of heavy turkey users (consumers who eat turkey once a week or more) live with kids ages 6-12, so restaurants looking to expand kids menus should consider adding a turkey entree or two.

As the trend toward eating healthier, leaner foods continues, operators will likely increase the amount of turkey dishes on their menus as well. And while many consumers love turkey burgers—especially if they get to choose their own toppings—new iterations of menu classics made with turkey will help keep things interesting.

This post is sponsored by Butterball Foodservice

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