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Seafood starters and small plates make a splash

Photograph: Shutterstock

Operators can try a variety of strategies to shake up a menu: LTOs, daily specials, seasonal rotations, nods to trending ethnic flavors and more. One way to add energy is to introduce new formats that feature popular ingredients such as seafood.

Seafood is already a mainstay entree, sandwich and salad option, and is also often featured in soups, sandwiches and salads. The real opportunity for innovation lies in other spots on the menu: seafood starters and small plates.

Seafood is in demand. According to Technomic’s 2019Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report, a solid majority (71%) of consumers enjoy seafood at least once a month. The report also noted the opportunity to drive seafood sales in menu sections and dayparts that typically aren’t known for seafood, such as breakfast, lunch, appetizers and sides. Making seafood more accessible during these dayparts and in new menu categories is a powerful way to reach younger customers, who are driving sales in these categories.

Extending the reach of seafood on the menu also means thinking outside the box in terms of ingredients. Tilapia, since it takes on many preparations and seasonings well, offers the perfect solution.

Operators have begun offering an array of tilapia dishes, as a result. For instance, at seafood chain Pappadeux Seafood Kitchen, diners can order Pan Grilled Tilapia, served with toasted hazelnuts, brown butter and spaghetti squash—an interesting, unexpected preparation. At Siam Bistro in Woodbridge, Va., the seafood menu includes Tilapia Pad Ped—a fried fillet of tilapia, sauteed with a spicy Thai curry sauce, Thai eggplant and peppercorns. And at Fiesta Garibaldi in Milwaukee, Wisc., chefs get creative with their prep for the Aluminum Foil Tilapia dish of tilapia stuffed with ceviche, baked to perfection and served with rice, a salad and tortillas or bread.

Seafood naturally dominates the entire menu at Slapfish, but the starters section in particular promises something for every appetite with the likes of grilled or fried fish Street Tacos with “awesome sauce”; Chowder Fries, which are loaded fries topped with clam chowder and bacon; and Lobster Taquitos, alongside standards such as shrimp ceviche, clam chowder and poached cocktail shrimp. Street tacos in particular offer great opportunity, and tilapia is a perfect mild-flavored, inexpensive fish to use in them.

Because it’s often not practical to sustain a broad inventory of seafood SKUs, many operators need a seafood product that can work in a variety of recipes. The versatile nature of a product such as tilapia opens the doors to multiple flavors and preparation styles, many of them well-suited to small plates, seafood starters and small plates. Tilapia plays well in sliders, ceviche, tacos, salads, bowls, fish and chips, fries, soup, lettuce wraps, ramen and other recipes that appeal to patrons seeking on-trend options.

Get a free sample of Regal Springs Panko Encrusted Tilapia today at regalsprings.com/panko-free-sample/

For more tilapia recipes and ideas, visit regalsprings.com/foodservice/.



Technomic’s 2019Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report, a solid majority (71%) of consumers enjoy seafood at least once a month.

Consumption Frequency


This post is sponsored by Regal Springs

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