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Consumer Trends

Barbeque goes upscale

While BBQ once was seen as an inexpensive, downhome comfort food, artisan efforts have redefined the category. Casual and quickservice concepts first marketed BBQ’s essence merely using the sauce (Chipotle BBQ sauce for those fries?). Now other nuances of barbeque are infiltrating restaurant chains to include side dishes, smoking techniques and even marinades.

  • New, upscale eateries smoke and roast everything from chicken to quail, and casual, established places have started applying these cooking methods to their proteins as well, even if only to chicken
  • While BBQ was once centered in the South, Texas and Kansas City, now New York City, Chicago, and other major food cities are setting the standard for fancier, more modern takes on barbeque. They’re installing smokers, specifying the ingredient source on the menu, such as “Creekstone Farms Texas Beef Brisket,” and using house-made condiments, rubs and marinades. Even casual and quickservice chains are calling out descriptors, such as Carrow’s “St. Louis Style Ribs” and McDonald’s “100% Angus Beef.”
  • According to Datassential MenuTrends, a barbeque concept is seven times more likely than other restaurants to put brisket on the menu. However, the number of chain LTOs featuring smoked brisket has doubled since 2009.
  • 6 percent of the LTOs and new items introduced in 2010 by these restaurant sectors included barbeque in some way.
  • In the future, expect to see casual dining chains and QSRs branching out even further with non-traditional proteins, twists on regional barbecue characteristics, creative marinades and a sharper focus on cooking methods.

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