Younger consumers are driving an increased focus on sustainability, and more consumers overall are demanding a wider variety of seafood on menus. With shifting interest in seafood, operators need to be familiar with the seafood consumer—who they are, what they’re looking for and when they eat it—to more effectively boost interest in seafood dishes.
Understand consumer habits
Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian report finds that 65% of consumers eat seafood at least occasionally (once every 90 days or more), either as an entree or a main entree ingredient, and 89% of consumers eat it at least once a month.
Most frequently, diners eat it for dinner, followed by lunch—seafood is much less frequently consumed as part of breakfast or as a snack. They gravitate toward seafood and fish for entrees more often than snacks or sides, perhaps because of the limited availability of those items. Operators looking to boost seafood sales might consider expanding their seafood options to the left side of the menu.
Diners who choose seafood do so because they are trying to eat healthier and consider seafood to be healthier, but other drivers for increased consumption include a wider array of options available, better affordability and environmental concerns. About half (54%) of consumers say the reason they choose seafood over meat is because they have a craving for a specific seafood item—a perfect opportunity for operators to create a signature seafood dish that will leave diners craving it again and again.
Offer unique, craveable dishes
As for which menu items entice diners to order seafood dishes, operators should focus on what consumers are looking for. Technomic’s Seafood & Vegetarian report finds that a third of consumers say they choose seafood because they want to try something different, including seafood entrees with new or unique flavors or ethnic seafood dishes.
The kinds of dishes that are easily made into signature items include fish tacos, poke bowls and other trending items: 26% of consumers say that if offered, they’d order seafood nachos, while 26% say the same about ahi tuna dishes. Operators can riff on popular, trending dishes, subbing in fish or seafood when possible (think a fried fish filet for a new take on the ubiquitous fried-chicken sandwich).
Highlight ethical sourcing
Forty-one percent of consumers say it’s important that the environment isn’t negatively impacted by the seafood they eat, according to Technomic’s Seafood & Vegetarian report. Sustainability has become a primary concern among many diners, and farmed fish offers an environmentally-friendly way to consume seafood.
While wild-caught seafood used to be the preferred method of sourcing, concerns about overfishing have caused an increased interest in aquaculture seafood. Operators who want to attract diners to whom sustainability is important should be sure to call out qualities like this on the menu, as well as educate staff on how to inform diners of the seafood sourcing.
To attract more diners to seafood dishes, operators should consider offering foods outside of the entree section, as well as menuing unique takes on flavor—globally inspired or otherwise. Consumers are interested in trying out new and exciting flavors, and if they’re made available, operators will see an uptick in interest.