Restaurant menus reflect consumer demand for more protein and protein-alternatives

If protein is getting more real estate on your menu, you’re right on-trend. From premium to plant-based, consumer demand for protein is high, as rising costs and labour shortages have restaurateurs adjusting their menus.

Technomic’s recent report takes a closer at customer preferences and which proteins are topping the charts.

In the health food category, pollock is a lean protein source full of vitamins, and it is up 25 per cent from 2021 on restaurant menus. This item also tends to be more cost-effective, adding to its appeal with today’s rising inflation.  

Although costs continue to rise, premium proteins like wagyu beef (up 32 per cent) and caviar (up 27 per cent) have increased, offering consumers something they don’t typically serve at home. In contrast, less expensive items like ground chuck are also gaining popularity (up 25 per cent). Most often seen in burgers, this ingredient is also being used as part of the ongoing comfort food restaurant trend.

Plant-based proteins continue to pick up speed, with plant-based poultry up 45 per cent. Not only being featured in sandwiches and as chicken tenders, it’s also making its way onto menus as part of Asian noodle and rice dishes.

Driven by consumers citing health and nutrition as priorities, the demand for vegetarian and plant-based dishes has restaurant menus evolving. 27 per cent of consumers say they want to see more items like plant-based chicken nuggets on the menu, over beef and fish. But it’s vegetables that are ultimately the most sought-after, with avocado, cauliflower, potatoes, beans, and mushrooms leading the pack.

RELATED: Consumers say plant-based diets are here to stay

While nearly 20 per cent of consumers said that they have ordered a vegetarian or plant-based item because they were with someone who did the same, 46 per cent are willing to pay more for these items than for meat.

It’s clear that the demand for more vegetarian and plant-based dishes is not going anywhere. Adding these to your menu will appeal to a large part of your clientele, keep you on-trend, and maximize those margins.