Consumers are getting more adventurous about trying global flavors and ingredients—a cue for foodservice operators to dive deeper into ethnic cuisines on the menu. Technomic’s 2018 Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report reveals that 24% of consumers are trying more unique types of ethnic foods and beverages now than two years ago, a number that rises to 35% for 18- to 34-year-olds.
Not only do younger consumers have a stronger demand for global fare, they also seek unique and emerging ethnic flavors, finds Technomic. One reason: Gen Zers and millennials are more ethnically diverse than older generations. Plus, they grew up eating international cuisines that are now mainstream, such as Mexican and Japanese.
So, how to appeal to the global palates of today’s consumers? Tap into these five trends cited in the report.
Photographs courtesy of Shutterstock
1. Explore regional variations
Although Chinese, Italian and Mexican are more mainstream than ethnic, 36% of consumers would like to delve into the regional niches of these cuisines. Survey respondents expressed an interest in trying Yucatan, Taiwanese and Fujian fare. The cuisines that consumers are most unfamiliar with but are excited to try include Filipino, Indonesian and Vietnamese.
2. Authenticity is important … to an extent
While 44% of consumers say they prefer completely authentic fare, 23% say their preferences change based on the cuisine. In addition, the definition of authenticity varies by consumer, Technomic notes. Operators should be clear about the ingredients and flavors diners can expect in a given item, in case it doesn’t fit with how a consumer expects that dish to be.
3. Tie in the familiar
Eastern European and Balkan influences are emerging on the food scene, and although consumers are least familiar with these cuisines, 50% say they are willing to try Croatian food and 56% say the same of Ukrainian. Some of these preps are similar to Turkish and German dishes, which may be more familiar to consumers. The same goes for lesser-known Middle Eastern or African cuisines such as Syrian, Moroccan and Lebanese—presenting these under the umbrella of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean can help guests relate to their flavor profiles.
4. Differentiate with ethnic beverages
Restaurants tend to focus on the food side of the menu when introducing ethnic flavors, but global beverages have been largely under the radar. That may be a missed opportunity: 70% of consumers agree that operators who offer ethnic foods should also offer beverages from that cuisine. Younger consumers show the most interest in ethnic drinks, with 43% saying they would consider ordering one. Adding housemade or imported beverages with global origins—both with and without alcohol—can also boost checks.
5. Market global flavors
A tempting menu description has the most influence on diners’ decision to try an ethnic dish, according to 49% of consumers overall and 53% of older customers. Adding a photo can further help the cautious customer to understand a dish, spurring purchase. Younger consumers are even more motivated by visuals, with 40% in favor of photos and 31% adding social media as an influence.