Technomic: Diners' entree choices shaped by economy

Jan. 19, 2009
CHICAGO -- Foodservice consultants Technomic has found that the weak economy hasn't just reduced restaurant traffic, it has influenced diners' choices in entrees.
For example, many consumers are bypassing beef for less expensive proteins like chicken, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic. When ordering beef, and especially steak, Tristano said they expect more quality, better cuts, aging and seasonings to justify paying a higher cost. Their expectations are reflected in emerging flavor and preparation trends and in menu descriptions.
These and other findings are detailed in two new reports in Technomic's Center of the Plate series, the Poultry Consumer Trend Report and Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report. The reports are based on more than 3,000 consumer interviews and analysis of about 500 restaurant brand menus, the reports examine changing consumer protein preferences, attitudes toward health and food safety issues and their effects on purchase behavior, plus emerging trends in flavor, preparation and presentation. Select findings include:
  • 64 percent of consumers think turkey and 61 percent of consumers think chicken are healthier than beef or pork.
  • Among emerging fullservice chains and independent restaurants, the top three preparation methods for beef were "cut" (as in hand-cut, center-cut or barrel-cut) at 16.7 percent, "grilled" (13.3 percent) and "aged" (12.4 percent). These were often used together in describing specific beef entrees.
Compared to the population at large, both students and Canadians displayed interesting differences, including:
  • The high protein content of beef was less appealing to students (39 percent) than to non-students (47 percent). However, students were more likely than non-students to think that beef is healthier than pork, chicken or turkey.
  • Several flavors for beef preferred by Americans, such as bourbon and chipotle, are significantly less appealing to Canadian consumers.
  • For beef, students show increased interest in spicy, ethnic flavors such as chili pepper, chipotle and hot sauce, and less for traditional flavors such as garlic and black pepper.
The Poultry Consumer Trend Report and Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report were designed to help restaurant operators and foodservice suppliers understand consumer attitudes and preferences that drive purchases and to identify growth opportunities in beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Leading and emerging chicken chains, steakhouses and barbecue chains are profiled in appendices, which also provide exclusive information on limited-time offers and new menu items.
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Topics: Food & Beverage , Pizza Toppings , Trends / Statistics

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