According to Technomic’s 2018 Ethnic Food & Beverage report, 30% of restaurant operators say they are menuing more ethnic dishes or dishes with ethnic flavors than they were two years ago. It’s not hard to see why: One-fifth of millennials and 22% of Gen Xers (and 16% of the population overall) say they actively seek out new flavors to try on a regular basis, so for those consumers, restaurants offering more unique dishes is a win.
For operators, it can be tricky to decide what ethnic options to menu, though—what will their customers be most open to? Are there any particularly sought-after dishes that can be surefire successes? Despite these questions, some chains are taking the leap. Here are four ethnic dishes that are trending right now and how they can easily be adapted to your menu.
1. Globally inspired wing sauces
Wings aren’t necessarily an ethnic food, but global condiments can take this craveable bar snack or appetizer to the next level. Wings are up 7% year-over-year on menus that feature ethnic dishes, according to Technomic’s Ethnic Food & Beverage report. Chimichurri and peri-peri are two trending options that can easily be menued without risk of being seen as too unfamiliar to order and enjoy. Other flavors that are on the rise for wings, according to MenuMonitor, include:
- Asian (+10.3%)
- Ginger (+7.4%)
- Korean (+5.9%)
- Chili sauce (+4.4%)
- Cilantro (+4.4%)
Add chicken or turkey wings to the menu and get creative with sauces—from herbed yogurt sauces to spicy Asian hot sauces, there’s something for everyone with this dish. At Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance, some sauces available include Thai Curry, Teriyaki and Korean BBQ.
2. Updated Greek salads
At quick-service restaurants such as Quizno’s, one ethnic dish that’s seeing a big boost in popularity is the Greek salad. Up 38% on menus year-over-year, according to MenuMonitor, Greek salads feature a tasty blend of olives, feta cheese and onions and can be topped with proteins such as gyro meat. At Quizno’s, the Gyro salad features seasoned beef and lamb gyro meat, feta, banana peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and tzatziki sauce over a bed of greens.
Some of the fastest-growing ingredients for Greek salads, according to MenuMonitor, include hummus and beets, so operators can experiment with adding additional vegetables (even pickled veggies), or venture into adding new proteins such as turkey gyro meat for a healthier spin. In fact, mentions of turkey in Greek salads are up 7.1% year-over-year. Serve this dish up with a side of soft, warm pita bread for a comforting, tasty meal deal.
3. Turkey wraps
One of the fastest-growing dishes on fast-casual menus are turkey sandwiches and wraps, which have grown 20% year-over-year, according to Technomic’s Ethnic Food & Beverage report. While these menu items may not seem ethnic, the global inspiration comes from the ingredients paired with the turkey. For instance, jalapeno has grown 10.7% in turkey wraps and sandwiches, chutney is up 7.1% and Spanish Manchego cheese is up 7.1% as well, according to MenuMonitor.
Turkey sandwiches and wraps provide the perfect canvas for operators who want to flex their creativity and use new, trending ethnic ingredients in a dish that their diners are already familiar with. By getting creative with toppings such as sundried tomatoes, pickled veggies, Asian condiments and sauces or flavored aiolis, operators can confidently menu ethnic-inspired turkey wraps and sandwiches. Earlier this year, Bruegger’s Bagels offered an LTO called the Sweet Heat Turkey Sandwich, which featured roasted turkey, cheddar, Sriracha honey cream cheese, red and green pepper and Sriracha sauce on marble rye bread.
4. Indian flavors
Indian foods and flavors, such as curry and chutneys, are spreading out on menus. From appetizers featuring naan instead of flatbreads, to flavorful rice dishes and beyond, operators are stepping up their Indian offerings. For instance, salad chain Sweetgreen offered a curry chickpea bowl this summer, featuring roasted chicken, hot chickpeas, shredded carrots, shredded cabbage, raisins, cilantro, toasted almonds, quinoa, baby spinach and curry yogurt dressing.
Tandoori preparations are typically associated with chicken dishes, but they can also give a new flair to alternative proteins such as turkey. These options are on trend, too: Indian-flavored non-breaded proteins are up 33% on menus, according to MenuMonitor. Put it into practice by serving tandoori turkey or turkey tikka masala for an update on this Indian classic.
A Turkey Twist
According to Technomic’s 2017 Flavor Report, 43% of 18- to 43-year-olds have an interest in dishes that combine flavors from a variety of different cuisines. In addition, 34% of all diners say they’d like to try turkey entrées featuring ethnic flavors.
Butterball is here to help. Turkey complements all kinds of ingredients and cuisines from around the globe. Try these trending tastes with turkey twists:
- Asian-Latin fusion: There are countless cuisines in Asia and Latin America that can be blended in unique ways, from Cuban-Vietnamese to Chinese-Indian. These Korean BBQ Turkey Wonton Tacos are a tasty mash-up featuring pulled turkey.
- Peruvian: Bring one of the top trending global flavors to the menu. Lomo saltado is a traditional Peruvian stir-fry, which typically includes strips of marinated meat, vegetables and french fries. By adding turkey—a familiar ingredient with a healthy twist—you can inspire trial and delight among diners.
- Indian: Chefs are finding new ways to experiment with bold Indian ingredients. Turmeric, the fastest-growing Indian flavor, is featured in this Middle Eastern Turkey Shawarma. It’s served on a warm pita and drizzled with tzatziki.
Flavor Consumer Trend Report, Technomic, 2017.
Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report, Technomic, 2017.
What’s Hot 2018 Culinary Forecast, National Restaurant Association, December 2017.
Global Cuisines Study, Datassential, 2017.