Top-performing Menu Items in the US (So Far)
by David Klemt
Thanks to a recent mid-year report from F&B intelligence platform Datassential, we now know the top-performing menu items in the US.
For the low, low price of filling out a handful of fields, you can download a copy of Datassential’s “Foodbytes: 2023 Midyear Trend Report” for yourself.
There’s plenty of useful data packed into this short report. You may find some of the top food items a bit surprising.
Datassential does more than just list the top mid-year menu performers in their latest report. There are also a couple of interesting datapoints for operators to consider.
The first piece of information is an alarming statistic: 54 percent of consumers are of the belief that “tipping culture has gotten out of control.”
As we’ve reported earlier, it’s likely that a major driver of “tip fatigue” comes from retail. The expectation for consumers to tip at a restaurant, bar or nightclub is ingrained deeply in American culture.
However, consumers throughout America are being prompted to tip after just about every transaction they’re attempting to complete. In fact, it’s not just retail that has been encouraging (in some cases, guilting) people to tip. Some contractors are also adding tip lines when handing over tablets to clients so they can pay their invoices.
One result is that servers and bartenders are reporting lower tips; guests are so over tipping that they’re pushing back against the practice in venues where they’d traditionally have no problem doing so.
Of course, tip fatigue isn’t the only reason consumers are pushing back against tipping. Many people feel that operators should increase what they pay staff. Indeed, some people feel that operators are asking them to subsidize their employee pay. Whether they’d be happy to pay higher prices remains to be seen.
Fads Aren’t Bad?
Whenever we cover trends or discuss them with clients, we caution against chasing too many (or the “wrong” trends). And fads? It can be even riskier to hop on the bandwagon of something that may never even reach the trend stage of its lifecycle.
However, likely due to the ubiquity of TikTok, consumers expect restaurants to embrace fads. According to Datassential, 67 percent of consumers overall “want to see more fads at restaurants and retail.”
That number jumps to 74 percent when focusing on Millennials and Gen Z.
So, while we still caution operators about jumping on fads (or “micro trends”) and trends, that doesn’t mean be too cautious. If a fad or trend works with your brand and won’t cost much to feature, at least give it consideration.
Not sure you’re great at identifying fads that will work for your business? Ask your staff which fads and trends are hot at the moment.
Speaking of Hot…
Alright, let’s take a look at the F&B items Datassential identifies as popular at the midway point of 2023.
Again, I encourage you to download the report in its entirety. You can do just that by clicking here.
But for those who want instant gratification, check out these menu items:
- Super Duper: Let’s kick things off with the hottest chain LTO, the Denny’s Super Slam. Per Datassential, restaurant chains have already featured in excess of 2,000 LTOs in 2023. The F&B intel agency tests them all, and the Super Slam is wearing the LTO crown at the moment.
- Chef Chatbot: Datassential tapped ChatGPT to create a burger recipe and had Midjourney create an image for the resulting Caprese Avocado Burger. More than half of consumers surveyed—57 percent—want to try it at a restaurant.
- Big Winner: Datassential asked consumers a simple question: Which would you rather eat for the rest of your life, a hamburger or a hot dog? A staggering 87 percent chose hamburgers, meaning just 13 percent of consumers would choose a hot dog over it’s burger buddy.
- What a Pickle: Back in March we checked out Slice’s Slice of the Union report, and it predicted pickle pizzas would be a hot trend this year. Well, Datassential has crunched the numbers and says 40 percent of consumers are aware of this pizza style already. Looks like Slice may be proven right by the end of the year.
- Speed Demon: Curious about the fastest-growing menu item on the US? Well, wonder no more: Datassential says it’s the barbecue chicken wing. Over the past year, they’ve grown 373 percent on menus across the States. Datassential posits the overall growth of chicken and the embracing of flavor trends like Carolina gold barbecue sauce are contributing factors.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’ll leave you to it. Just remember that when it comes to fads and trends, there’s a fine line between what’s hot, what’s not, and jumping on the wrong one. Good luck!