Success in the restaurant industry depends on menu innovation, and limited-time offerings (LTOs) represent an important way to provide it. LTOs and other menu specials create buzz, build traffic and help keep the menu fresh and on-trend.
That goes double when the new offerings highlight seafood. For one thing, seafood is showing up on more menus. According to the Technomic 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, limited-service restaurants offer an average of five seafood entrees each, while full-service establishments offer an average of about 13. Consumption is also robust, with 89% of consumers eating seafood at least once a month, and 65% consuming it at least once a week.
There are a number of reasons why fish and shellfish fit the bill for LTOs and menu specials:
Customers see fish and shellfish as a healthy mealtime choice. According to the Technomic report, 63% of consumers say they are eating more meals with seafood because they are trying to eat healthier and consider seafood to be healthier. In addition, 38% say they are eating more seafood in lieu of meat, and 33% say they like more of the seafood options available at foodservice locations.
Seafood brings a distinctive twist to menus thanks to the many different varieties of fish and shellfish that are available—from familiar shrimp and salmon to species such as catfish and scallops.
The growing availability of high-quality, value-adding individually quick-frozen fish and shellfish products, which can be cooked as needed from the frozen state, helps to minimize waste and eliminate forecasting guesswork.
LTOs are good for cross-utilization, maximizing the opportunity to use inventory in multiple menu items. This is particularly important for proteins and other specialty ingredients; breaded fish fillets, for instance, can be used in a fish-and-chips core menu item and repurposed as a sandwich LTO.
Many restaurant operators use LTOs and specials to market-test new menu items; successful specials can be brought back repeatedly or even added to the core menu. This is particularly useful with a less familiar protein such as squid, redfish or Alaska pollock, or when adding fish or shellfish to the menu for the first time.
As a distinctive center-of-plate ingredient, seafood can be priced strategically. Fish and shellfish can support premium pricing in order to build check averages and margins, or these items can carry a value-oriented price point that will help bring in new customers.
For every menu concept, there’s an appropriate seafood specialty, from a casual fried fish sandwich or popcorn shrimp to an elegant glazed salmon fillet. In addition, seafood’s relatively neutral flavor profile and worldwide popularity lends well to innovation, including ethnic specialties and signature dishes.
More customers today are interested in where their food comes from, and seafood represents a great starting point for a sustainability program. According to the Technomic report, 41% of consumers say that it’s important that the environment is not negatively impacted by the seafood they eat, so promoting responsible sourcing—such as farm-raised or wild-caught seafood from a sustainable fishery—is an important point of differentiation that restaurant operators can make.
Seafood-based LTOs and menu specials are the ideal vehicle for creating newsworthy promotions. They can be marketed in a variety of ways, from table tents and other point-of-sale materials to advertising and social media. Many savvy chains plan their marketing calendars around limited-time offers as a way of raising a brand’s profile.
Seafood Success: Recent LTOs
- Wood-Grilled Selections: Toasted Parmesan Grilled Shrimp - Red Lobster
- Hot Buttered Downeaster Lobster Roll Combo - Ninety Nine Restaurants
- Roasted Garlic Butter Filet & Lobster - Outback Steakhouse
- Biscuit Breaded Fried Shrimp - Bob Evans
Q2 2017; Source: Technomic
This post is sponsored by High Liner Foods