Restaurants Missing Out on Ethnic Menu Opportunities

Authenticity a crucial factor when making an ethnic meal purchase

CHICAGO -- As Americans’ exposure to the world’s food cultures continues, consumers are increasingly craving ethnic eats. Unfortunately, chain restaurants aren’t meeting the demand for new foods and flavors.

Only a quarter of consumers polled for a recent study from Chicago-based research firm Technomic say they are satisfied with the availability of ethnic offerings at limited-service and full-service chains, which translates into opportunities for operators to differentiate their menus and gain market share with globally inspired offerings.

“Authenticity is crucial to the ethnic food and beverage purchasing decision” says Technomic executive vice president Darren Tristano, “Sixty-five percent of consumers say food that tastes authentic is one of the most important factors in deciding which establishment to visit for ethnic foods and beverages. Operators have an opportunity to create innovative and globally inspired menu items reflected through preparation, taste and flavor. Consumers also say that dishes prepared by someone from that region are given greater credibility as authentic.”

Other findings from Technomic’s Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report include:

  • Three out of four consumers (77%) purchase ethnic foods and flavors away from home at least once a month. The percentage is strongly driven by Asian and Hispanic respondents, with 90% and 88% of these consumers, respectively, purchasing ethnic food or flavors away from home at least once a month.
  • Data indicates that cuisine does not need to be from another country to be considered ethnic; nearly nine out of 10 consumers consider regional U.S. cuisines such as Cajun (89%) and Creole (86%) cuisines to be ethnic.
  • Thirty-three percent of consumers strongly agree that there are many ethnic foods they would like to order at restaurants but are not able to find.
  • Southeast Asian flavors are moving into the mainstream with the development of familiar offerings with a flavorful Thai, Vietnamese or Indonesian twist on sauces, dressings and ingredients.
  • When asked how likely they would be to order ethnic foods or flavors at specific day-parts, 19% of respondents said breakfast, 52% said lunch and 75% stated dinner.

Technomic’s Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report examines consumer behavior, attitudes and preferences toward ethnic flavors, foods and beverages based on survey results from 1,500 consumers.