Chefs plate up dishes of fish and greens on a service area of a restaurant kitchen.

Mintel's American Regional foodservice trend showing up on restaurant menus

March 26, 2013
4 min read

Last year, Mintel chose American regional cuisines as a major trend to watch, and the trend continues apace in 2013. Menu items that reference broad cultural and regional influences, like Cajun, Creole and Californian, proliferated in February.

  • Bahama Breeze – Shrimp Creole Rice Bowl: Tender shrimp in a Caribbean Creole sauce, chorizo sausage, sweet peppers, olives and tomatoes served over basmati rice.
  • McAlister’s Deli – Cajun Shrimp Po Boy: Creole-seasoned shrimp laid across a crunchy baguette, with lettuce, tomato, coleslaw, and creamy remoulade sauce.
  • Schlotzsky’s Deli – Ham Muffalotza: Lean smoked ham, Genoa salami, olive mix, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, Creole mayonnaise and our signature dressing on our toasted Sourdough bun.
  • Steak ‘n Shake – California Steakburger ‘n Fries: Our classic Double Steakburger with a fresh, gourmet flair! It’s seasoned to perfection and topped with a delicious combination of fresh flavors and ingredients – aged white Cheddar cheese, thick black peppercorn bacon, fresh avocado slices, and zesty sauce! Served with fresh lettuce, vine-ripened tomato and red onion.

Meanwhile, other new menu items are getting more specific with referencing food origins (not just Cajun, but from the French Quarter) and are pinpointing lesser known regions of the culinary map, like Bar Harbor, a seafood-centric tourist destination in Maine, or the Mississippi Delta, an authentic source for catfish.

  • LongHorn Steakhouse – Bleu Ridge Salad: Crisp heart of romaine topped with tomatoes, hickory-smoked bacon, crumbled bleu cheese, red onions and bleu cheese dressing.
  • Ruby Tuesday – French Quarter Gumbo: Our spicy gumbo features grilled shrimp, fresh chicken, and andouille sausage served over rice pilaf as one of your sides.
  • Ruby Tuesday -Smoky Mountain Chicken: Fresh, all-natural grilled chicken smothered with smoky barbecue sauce and topped with Cheddar cheese and applewood bacon.
  • Red Lobster – Bar Harbor Lobster Bake: A roasted split Maine lobster tail, tender shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, and linguini in a garlic and white wine broth.
  • O’Charley’s – Catfish Platter: Sink your teeth into our Mississippi Delta, farmraised catfish that’s cornmeal-breaded and fried golden brown and accompanied with spicy tartar sauce. Served with our new Southern coleslaw, signature Hush Puppies and hot, seasoned fries.
  • Del Taco – Crispy Shrimp & Baja Shrimp: Crispy golden shrimp with your choice of savory secret sauce or tangy Baja sauce.
  • Corner Bakery – Turkey Monterey Panini: Thin layers of smoked turkey, fresh spinach, artichoke asiago spread and provolone on grilled sourdough.

Fancier Pizza

February also ushered in a batch of fancier pizzas from national brands, with goat cheese, Brussels sprouts and arugula just some of the ingredients atop America’s favorite take-out. The pizza market has been dictated by low price deals for years, so it will be interesting to see if consumers who are used to 2-for-1 pepperoni and red sauce pizzas will make the leap to sun-dried tomatoes and leafy greens, or if new trading-down customers will be intrigued by these ingredient combinations.

  • Papa Murphy’s is testing three new combinations: Goat Cheese and Fennel Sausage with creamy garlic sauce, pepperoni, spinach, fennel sausage, mushrooms, goat cheese and herbs; Fennel Sausage & Sun-dried Tomato with red sauce, pepperoni, fennel sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, green onion, black olives and feta; and Prosciutto & Arugula Delite with red sauce, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and arugula.
  • California Pizza Kitchen – Brussels + Bacon Pizza: Topped with sweet caramelized onions, Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, Romano and creamy goat cheeses with black pepper and Brussels sprouts that have been hand-separated, tossed in olive oil, and charred to sweeten them and give them a crispy texture.
  • Uno Chicago Grill – Chipotle Chicken Deep Dish: Hand-crafted regular or 9-grain deep dish crust (made fresh every day), smoky, spicy chipotle chicken with Cheddar, mozzarella, salsa, onions and peppers.

Mintel Insights:

Give Meaning to Places: Regional references need to have authentic regional ingredients to really grab attention.

Describe Where Needed: A Baja sauce and a Monterey reference may not be familiar to everyone; give some flavor cues, where necessary.

Tempt with Samples or Deals: Help customers make the leap to new ingredients with bite-sized samples or deals that tie an old favorite to a test item.

Kathy Hayden
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