Beef Does the Heavy Lifting on Menus

filet mignon steak

Spiking beef prices and menu consolidation trends in recent years have led many operators to rethink their menu mix and drop some popular but pricey cuts. But as beef prices have moderated, many are reconsidering its potential for growing sales and profits—and its versatile nature.

Beef, while often more costly than other proteins, also can bring more dollars to the bottom line.

Datassential found that median food costs for center-of-plate beef preparations run 33% for entrees, versus 26-29% for chicken, fish, shrimp and pork. But that higher cost is more than offset by higher menu prices and gross profit dollar contribution, particularly with higher-end cuts. Simply put, when beef is the entree, the dish brings more dollars to the bottom line. For example:

CutMedian PriceNet Profits
Filet mignon$25, $33, $37$15, $23, $25.50
Ribeye steak$20, $31, $38$12, $21, $24


Entree profit alone averages nearly $19 for all types of beef, well above the $12-$15 margins seen with fish, pork, shrimp and chicken.

Orders of beef entrees also tend to trigger above-average add-on revenue for appetizers, sides and desserts, according to Datassential. Filet mignon leads the way, with a median $13.90-$22.15 in extras; ribeye steak and sirloin steak are also among the top five choices associated with the highest add-on sales. Overall, beef entrees prompt consumers to order a median of $17.33 in extras, versus $11.97 for chicken.

Beef is even more of a catalyst for higher sales when factoring alcohol sales into the equation. Average checks for orders including beef top the list of protein choices at over $45. The lowest checks associated with chicken, at just north of $28.

As restaurants streamline their menus in the name of operational simplicity, beef deserves a place not only for its profit- and dollar-boosting potential, but for its unparalleled flexibility as an ingredient. Beef can satisfy a variety of tastes and budgets, from the universally popular hamburger to savory pot roast, , fajitas, and kebabs, to celebratory filet mignon , prime rib, hearty ribeye and more.

Beef never goes out of style, but according to the National Restaurant Association’s latest annual survey of top chefs, it’s fashion-forward, especially in newly popularized forms such as shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas strip steak and Merlot cut. House-made charcuterie, sometimes made from beef, is another top trend for the year.

Beef is also a key player in contemporary ethnic cuisines, including Asian, Italian and Mexican.

Menuing beef has other, less-tangible, benefits. Having steaks, in particular, on the menu serves a number of critical functions, operators said in a 2016 Technomic Usage and Volumetric Assessment of Beef in Foodservice survey. Driving traffic was considered the top advantage of having “a strong steak presence” on the menu, especially for full-service and hotel restaurant operators. And avoiding a “veto vote” continues to be a good argument for including a steak, many agreed.

As operators seek new ways to drive traffic and revenue, leveraging the power of beef is a smart strategy.

This post is sponsored by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to The Beef Checkoff


Exclusive Content


McDonald's is a chicken chain now

The company’s chicken business is “on par” with its beef business as Americans continue to devour more poultry. It plans more chicken products in the coming years.


Beef prices are soaring. It won't get better anytime soon

With beef inflation expected to stick around for the next few years, steakhouses and meat-focused concepts are creating strategies to manage sourcing and the menu. It's all about being flexible.


Brands shift their attention back to smaller operators

The Bottom Line: While plenty of franchises like Subway still want large-scale franchisees, there is a movement to keep their sizes down.