Demand for wild-caught, sustainably sourced seafood is on the rise, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report. Plus, consumers are increasingly drawn to menu items that tell a story, whether it’s about sourcing, flavor pairings or the evolution of a dish. The Applewood Bacon-Wrapped Scallops Starter from Bonefish Grill checks several of those boxes.
On the menu, the appetizer is described as “four Georges Bank scallops wrapped in applewood bacon and topped with mango salsa.” Mentioning the scallops’ source helps tell the story behind the item and plays up its sustainability attributes. “We never shy away from a chance to educate,” says Justin Fields, Bonefish Grill’s executive chef. “It’s a great way for us to solidify our place in the guests’ mind as the ‘subject matter experts’ when it comes to sourcing and preparing fresh seafood.”
That story, coupled with the combination of ingredients and flavors described in this LTO, convinced 82% of potential purchasers to rate it as craveable in Technomic’s Ignite menu concept development survey. High craveability scores can indicate a bump in sales, says Lauren Hallow, consumer insights manager for Technomic.
Scallops and bacon are a classic combination—the saltiness of the bacon balances against the sweetness of the scallops, says Fields. “We were also seeking some tart, bright flavors and added color for the dish. The tropical tart kick of our mango salsa compliments these notes well,” he adds. The housemade salsa, a Bonefish signature since day one, is used across the menu.
Craveability is often tied to nostalgia, Fields believes, and bacon-wrapped scallops is a dish that many consumers have eaten in some form. “That draws them in, but what brings them back is the differentiated ‘tropical’ feel and plating, which is lighter and feels less indulgent than the typical scallop and bacon experience,” he says. “The nostalgia piece is interesting because bacon-wrapped scallops is a legacy dish that went away and returned due to guest demand.” Bonefish Grill gathers guest feedback through email, social media and other sources.
Technomic found that nearly half (44%) of consumers want restaurants to offer seafood with new or unique flavors, which shows a willingness on consumers’ parts to experiment. Limited-time offers are a good platform for this kind of trial. “At Bonefish Grill, we have our core menu, which satisfies our loyal core guests, but we also have a specials board, where we have freedom to aggressively innovate and compete with mom-and-pop restaurants,” says Fields. This scallops appetizer was on the dinner specials board, but there’s been lots of innovation around brunch starters, too. “Chances are that a great starter experience will lead to another visit from that guest,” he adds.
Beyond ethnic influence
With 49% of seafood consumers saying they would like to see restaurants offer a wider variety of seafood options, according to Technomic, LTOs are a lower-risk way to introduce different species. “We do well with shrimp in general, and something that’s top of mind is offering different species of shrimp, which offer different attributes in flavor, color and texture,” says Fields. “You can have a lobster-like experience with the right shrimp.”
Bonefish is also delving more into American regional cuisine. “I think we take for granted the vast variety of unique, nostalgic and craveable dishes this nation has to offer,” Fields notes. Recently, he was inspired by how seafood boils translated across the U.S.: crawfish boil with andouille sausage in Louisiana, clam bakes in New England and blue crab with Old Bay spice in Maryland. “We tapped into the best of all these versions and put together a Summer Boil that we feel offers a wide view of the seafood boil spectrum,” he says.
What women want
The bacon-wrapped scallops with mango salsa are particularly popular among female guests at Bonefish Grill. “We’ve found that they typically want to eat lighter than their male counterparts,” says Fields. And indeed, 7 in 10 female potential purchasers were drawn to this item.
Source: Technomic Ignite menu concept development survey