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Drive Traffic with Ethnic-Inspired Menu Updates

Drive Traffic with Ethnic-Inspired Menu Updates


It’s no secret that diners of all generations are seeking ethnic flavors both at and away from home. A majority of consumers (62%) say they purchase ethnic or ethnic-inspired foods from restaurants and other foodservice locations at least once a month.1 Generation Z is helping drive popularity of ethnic dishes, with 54% of them saying they are more interested in trying ethnic flavors than they were a year ago.2 In addition to driving traffic, offering ethnic menu items can also increase margins. Thirty-two percent of customers who order ethnic foods or flavors are willing to pay extra for it.3 Operators have noticed these changing tastes and are adapting in order to meet them; 30% of operators say they are menuing more ethnic dishes than they were 2 years ago.4 Stand up to competition by innovating your menu with these trending flavors.

Maximizing Mainstream

Ethnic food doesn’t need to be unfamiliar in order to entice and satisfy diners. Even ethnic cuisines that have reached ubiquity are still highly sought out. In fact, Mexican food is American diners’ second most favorite cuisine, with 68% of consumers saying they find it to be appealing or extremely appealing.5 Draw in these diners with Mexican-inspired dishes like pork street tacoscabo adobo pizza or chorizo tamales. Students specifically are also requesting that more familiar ethnic cuisines appear on their school menus. The most requested cuisines are Chinese (62%), Italian (55%) and Spanish (45%).6

Familiar Formats

Introducing ethnic ingredients into staple items on your menu is a simple way to draw in diners seeking out new flavors. Chicken wings with ethnic flavors are growing in popularity, with mentions of them increasing 7% year-over-year on menus that feature ethnic dishes.7 A handful of wing flavors in particular are gaining popularity. These trending flavors are Asian (+10.3%), ginger (+7.4%), Korean (+5.9%), chili sauce (+4.4%) and cilantro (+4.4%).8 Add flair to your original boneless wings by tossing them in an ethnic-inspired glaze and serving them with a coconut mango sauce. Or test out new flavors with a flight of flavored wings.

Emerging Flavors

In addition to maintained interest in familiar ethnic cuisines, cuisines from vastly varied origins are now in the “Adoption” phase outlined by Datassential. Middle Eastern and North African flavors and dishes are becoming more desirable, with 35% of consumers saying they’d like to see more dishes with these influences on menus.9 Northern Africa and the Middle East have some overlapping flavor profiles. Trending ingredients include Berbere spice, harissa and dukkah from Africa, and tahini, za’atar and zhoug from the Middle East. Similarly, mentions of Korean ingredients, like kimchi, now appear on 5.2% of all menus, which is a 71% increase since 2013.10 Joining Korean and Middle Eastern cuisines are also Thai, Hawaiian, Jamaican and Indian to name a few.

Whether you choose to bring new life to familiar dishes or opt for crafting something completely new, ethnic offers will not go unnoticed by today’s diners. Diners of all generations– from Gen Z to Baby Boomers- are enticed by ethnic dishes and dishes with ethnic influence. Even a small tweak to a menu staple can mean higher traffic without increased labor.

Content courtesy of Tyson Foods