Consumers want to eat more healthful foods, and are willing to pay a premium for them if they perceive value in the menu item. Operators are seeking cost-effective strategies to menu the premium proteins patrons desire, like no antibiotics ever and organic proteins. Some operators have found success in strategies such as creative presentation, shareable platters, cost-effective formats and making use of all pieces of protein.
Millennials are especially interested in premium foods. According to Chicago-based research firm Mintel, 62 percent of millennials consider themselves to be foodies, and are likely to value premium ingredients. These consumers are willing to spend more for high quality ingredients, according to the Mintel study.
Other age groups are also willing to pay more for healthful foods. According to a Nielsen survey, consumers of all ages place differing amounts of importance on whether a food is healthful, and millennials are especially willing to pay more for these healthful attributes. For example, 33 percent of millennials agree that healthful attributes are very important when they shop for food, and 29 percent say they are willing to pay a premium for it. Among Generation X, 32 percent say healthy attributes are important, and 26 percent are willing to pay more. Among baby boomers, 32 percent say health attributes are important in the foods they buy, and 23 percent say they would pay a premium.
For many consumers, healthful foods include organic and no antibiotics ever proteins. For example, PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® offers flavorful NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER chicken and turkey items raised on an all-vegetarian diet with no animal by-products. Operators say they have several methods to menu premium poultry and pork, while still conveying value to patrons.
Consumers want high quality proteins, and they also want large portions, says Eric Stangarone,chef and partner of En Su Boca in Richmond, Va. “People like abundance, in food or flavor or color,” he says. “They want to get a lot for their money.”
Stangarone adds that consumers’ demands exceed large portion size. They also want a pleasing presentation, and fresh, interesting, high quality foods. “That’s how to appease the general masses that go out to eat twice a week,” he says. “Those are the people who will talk about your food and talk about your brand.”
Of course, the quintessential value-priced meal is a sandwich. However, consumers expect interesting sandwiches with bold flavors, and operators are presenting some innovative creations.
At Pine State Biscuits, with four locations in Portland, Ore., The Reggie is a crowd favorite, with fried chicken, bacon and cheese topped with gravy. Other popular biscuit sandwiches include the McIsley, with fried chicken, pickles, mustard and honey, and the Wedgie, with fried chicken, fried green tomato, a wedge of iceberg lettuce and blue cheese dressing. These items are all priced at $8 or less. The restaurant lists the menu ingredients on its website, including PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER chicken.
At Poag Mahone’s in Chicago, the Crispy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich consists of fried antibiotic-free chicken breast tossed in buffalo sauce, topped with shredded carrot, celery and blue cheese dressing for $12.50. At Vancouver, Wash.-based Burgerville, the Crispy Chicken Sandwich is made with golden-fried chicken breast with no hormones or antibiotics, barbecue sauce, tomato, lettuce and Burgerville Spread on a wheat Kaiser bun.
Another way for an operator to get the most out of premium proteins is to use as much of the meat as possible. At Porano Pasta in St. Louis, chef-owner Gerard Craft buys a whole pig and uses it for many pork dishes on the menu. “You just have to use everything,” he says. “That’s the key, not to waste a bit of it.”
Craft owns other restaurants through his Niche Food Group. At the French restaurant Brasserie, Craft uses organ meats such as pork liver. At the fast casual Porano Pasta the kitchen utilizes the shoulder and the ham. “We smoke and slow roast those,” he says. “The belly and the loin get smoked and simmered with a tomato sauce to make pork sugo.”
Diners choose the base, which is a grain or pasta, the protein, sauce and then toppings such as fresh herbs, pecorino cheese, green olives or others. The marinated grilled chicken bowls cost $8.95 and the slow-roasted pork bowls are $8.95.
Consumers perceive they are getting a good value for the meal. “The portions aren’t gigantic but they are very filling bowls,” Craft says. “They are extremely flavorful.”