Pulled pork, ribs and saucy grilled chicken are popular menu items year-round, but the barbecue category really heats up in summer. Operators can feed diners’ barbecue cravings by featuring a greater variety of flavors and delving into different styles. Catch the attention of longtime barbecue fans and new ones by tapping into these trends.
1. Tempt with a trio of flavors
While barbecue features a wide range of ingredients and flavor nuances, consumers show a strong interest in three basic barbecue flavors: smoky, tangy and bold, according to Technomic’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report. Smoky leads in popularity, with 52% of consumers finding that flavor profile appealing. Tangy is next at 43%, followed by bold at 41%.
Takeaway: Calling out these flavors in menu descriptions can encourage trial and spike orders.
2. Drive interest with regional sauces
As chefs dig deeper into regional American cuisines, barbecue flavors with ties to specific parts of the country are also on the rise. Of particular appeal to diners are Kansas City-style sauce (sweetened with molasses), Texas-style sauce (spicy) and Memphis sauce (vinegar-and-tomato-based with hints of sweetness), per Technomic’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report. Coming down the pike are Hawaiian (teriyaki-based with pineapple), Tennessee (whiskey-infused) and Louisiana (featuring Cajun and Creole flavors). Distinctive sauces from North Carolina (vinegar, red pepper flakes and cayenne), South Carolina (vinegar, mustard and brown sugar) and Alabama white (mayonnaise-based with a shot of heat) are also emerging.
Takeaway: Offering items with these regional accents plays up local flavor—a top consumer priority.
3. Explore ethnic barbecue styles
Along with the increased interest in regional cuisine, global barbecue dishes are trending. Data from Technomic’s MenuMonitor reveals that menu mentions of Southeast Asian barbecue—which includes satays and other skewered meats—have gone up 11% year over year. Same with Korean barbecue, also rising 11%. South American barbecue mentions have increased 4%, with Argentinian and Brazilian steakhouses contributing to that bump.
Takeaway: When preparing and marketing ethnic barbecue items, authenticity is key: 69% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase food described as authentic, finds Technomic.