Food Service Trends

SeaFood Photography

Entice Customers With Camera-Friendly Dishes

shutterstock_359681036Every day, thousands of images of food are posted online to platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Culinarians can leverage this phenomenon in two ways:

  1. Offer camera-ready meals that customers want to snap and share with friends.
  2. Share delicious-looking images of your food on social media to entice customers to come in.

Jackie Dulen Rodriguez, senior manager of the food research and consulting firm Technomic Inc., said in a food trend report, “The younger generation lives digitally. They don’t want to eat a meal if they are not going to take a picture of it.”

The good news? Seafood is photogenic! Social media accounts all around the U.S. are dedicated to aggregating the best food photography in a city. DCdining and HungryinLA, on opposite sides of the country, both regularly feature mouth-watering seafood items. From lox on a bagel or shrimp scampi to a simply-grilled fish fillet or buttery lobster roll, it’s clear consumers want to see seafood.

Food Photography Tips

  1. shutterstock_707939749.jpgLove Your Lighting – Indirect natural light is best; direct sunlight can be harsh. Do not use a flash.
  2. Stay Still – In low light especially, the camera is very sensitive to movement. Consider a tripod.
  3. Food Can Have A Good Side – Don’t be afraid to rotate a dish to find its most appealing side or angle. Shooting directly above the food or at an angle to the side is popular.
  4. Ready For Its Close-Up – Zoom in to fill the frame mostly with the food, so the details are crisp and it stimulates the senses.
  5. Dress It Up – Garnish the dish with herbs, condiments, and toppings to enhance the food’s color and appeal.
  6. Waste No Time – Photograph while the food is as fresh as possible.
  7. Tidy Up – Make sure the plate and tablecloth are clean so nothing distracts the viewer from the food.

Pairing Pasta with Seafood

shutterstock_70428712It’s a fact: pasta is the world’s most popular dish, according to a global survey by the non-profit Oxfam. That puts noodles ahead of meat, rice and
pizza, and the countries-in-favor stretch far beyond Italy to the Philippines, South Africa, Brazil and, of course, the United States. Some of the characteristics that make this food so appealing to both the consumer and the restaurateur are because pasta is…

  • Delicious and satisfying (comfort food ring a bell?)
  • Versatile (from Fettuccine to Manicotti… don’t get us started on sauces)
  • Widely available, shelf-stable and easy-to-prepare (don’t tell Nonna)

But as they say, heavy is the head that wears the crown. In the wake of Dr.
Atkins, Paleo, and the gluten-free phenomenon, the traditional pasta dish
has had to evolve to keep up with customer demands. While restaurateurs
have done a good job offering more variety – from whole wheat to spaghetti
squash pasta – one of the best and easiest ways to entice customers to order
pasta is to add something it inherently lacks… delicious protein! The NDP
group reports that more than half of U.S. adults say they want more protein
in their diets – adding a salmon fillet to a creamy rigatoni, a serving of clams
to a white wine linguine, or a handful of shrimp over a simple and colorful
Bucatini does just the trick.

Are you ready for some seafood?

Untitled design (68).jpgThe quintessential image of autumn captures trees adorned with orange leaves, pumpkin patches, and the occasional Harvest cornucopia. But for many Americans, a picturesque fall season consists of 100 yards of green, two teams, and one pig-skin: the start of football season.

The kick-off to fall begins the transition to heartier “comfort food” on menus, especially in regards to football fare and appetizers. Put seafood in the game to differentiate a menu from typical fall offerings. Adding the nutrient-dense and protein-rich food appeals to customers who strive to strike a balance between being healthy and indulgent while dining out, a trend reported by Technomic, Inc.

“We have noticed significant growth in seafood sales during games, a lot has to do with the popularity of the NFL and college football amongst females.

– Chris Thompson, Kitchen Manager of Joe Theismann’s Restaurant

Pumpkin & Seafood: The Pairing of Two Superfoods

Untitled design (70).jpgThe symbol of the sea and the icon of autumn might seem like an unlikely pair, but seafood and pumpkin are a complimentary superfood duo. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin C and fiber, while seafood is a source of B vitamins, vitamin D, and healthful omega-3 fats. And they’re both available in convenient forms – frozen seafood and canned pumpkin – that are just as healthful as fresh, so you can serve them throughout the fall and beyond.

Between its delicious flavor, “comfort food” feel, and healthful perception, restaurant demand for pumpkin in menu items soared 38 percent in two years, according to restaurant market research firm Technomic. Keep your customers Hooked on seafood by combining it with the autumn ingredient that’s gone mainstream.

Dining Out Kid’s Style

shutterstock_180635486One of the most popular places to enjoy seafood is restaurants. But some parents shy away from ordering seafood for their kids or taking their kids out to eat altogether. Set your customers up for dining and seafood success with the following tips, several of which come from chefs interviewed for the book “My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything” by Nancy Piho:

  1. Set the scene. Kids do well at good tables with interesting views of street scenes or open kitchens.
  2. Encourage no noise toys. Provide kids with coloring books and little hand toys to amuse them before the food arrives. Hopefully this will help parents steer clear of DVDs, video games, and electronic toys at the table. These can be distracting to other guests and are the childhood version of texting throughout meals. Skipping the electronics encourages kids to engage with their families as they eat.
  3. Don’t dumb down kids’ menus. Serve smaller portion sizes of the adult fare, at a reduced price. Eating out at a restaurant should be an opportunity to try new foods and flavors. And that includes the kids!
  4. Swap in seafood. Update classic kids’ options – like quesadillas, spaghetti, and burgers – by using seafood instead of the usual protein.
  5. Help parents makeover their mealtime mind-set. Many kids don’t try new foods simply because their parents assume they won’t. Setting the stage for adventurous eating starts with telling tots how much they are going to love their food, as opposed to asking questions like “do you like that?” Servers and chefs can join in too!

Delectable Descriptions

shutterstock_342194606 (1).jpgWith so many different species of seafood, there is a fish or shellfish for every appetite. Consider including some information on your menu about the flavor and texture of the seafood you offer to help consumers hone in on a good fish fit for their palate. Here are a few examples.

Species Flavor & Texture:

  • Catfish slightly sweet, earthy flavor; flaky texture
  • Clams earthy, sea flavor; tender, chewy texture
  • Cod mildly earthy, herbal flavor; moist, tender texture
  • Crab light earthy, salty flavor; flaky texture
  • Halibut subtle sunflower oil flavor; moist, meaty texture
  • Salmon savory, rich earthy flavor; silky, meaty texture
  • Shrimp mild, sweet flavor; firm, smooth, juicy texture
  • Tilapia subtle chicken flavor; moist, flaky texture
  • Yellowfin Tuna nutty, faintly acidic flavor; meaty texture

Mix & Match

For an even more customized meal experience, consider a “mix and match” section of your menu where customers can pick their own fish and sauce/topping combination.

    • White fish like Halibut and Codshutterstock_592478513
      Pairs well with sweet and spicy flavors like miso-honey glaze and maple sugar-pepper rub
    • Pink fish like Salmon and Tuna
      Pairs well with sweet and bold flavors like fruit salsas, teriyaki sauce, and smoky paprika rub
    • Mild fish like Tilapia and Catfish
      Pairs well with crunchy toppings like fennel mint tzatziki and crumbled maple-bacon topping

Bring Seafood Aboard for Brunch

Brunch, the fantastic (and delicious!) combination of breakfast and lunch, is gaining in popularity at restaurants and food service operations across America. Technomic’s 2013 American Express MarketBriefing found that 9 out of 10 consumers surveyed eat brunch at a restaurant at least occasionally.


Dining out for brunch provides quality time with family and friends while offering flexibility in hours and a unique mash up of menu items. The MarketBriefing Bottom Line says, “Brunch is a daypart with extremely broad consumer appeal… operations that do not currently offer brunch should consider it.”

One way to entice customers to come in for brunch is to offer a wider variety of menu items, including more fresh food options like fish and seafood. “Typical” breakfast foods like eggs, bacon and bagels, can be made at home or at almost any establishment. But offerings like assorted oysters, eggs Norwegian (smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce), warm shrimp salad, and Trout Almandine as seen on Le Diplomate’s brunch menu in Washington, D.C., help differentiate and draw in customers. “The thought-process behind the development of the menu was a wide variety of items for people to come in and enjoy,” says Le Diplomate’s Executive Chef Michael Abt. “We want to appeal to everybody, we want to bring in all walks of life.”

Add Seafood to Salads

shutterstock_579249790Trendy ingredients, bold flavors, and a wider variety of vegetables and toppings are contributing to the wild success of salads recently. As consumers continue to seek healthy options while dining out, fish and shellfish can be positioned as the ultimate protein powerhouse to top already nutritious salads. And according to Technomic, Inc., consumers are willing to pay for it.

Technomic’s “Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report” found that 90% of consumers would be willing to pay more to add meat or seafood to a salad that doesn’t already contain it. Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic outlines four things consumers are looking for in a salad:

  • Customizability: Ability to add shrimp, leave off an egg, or order half portions.
  • A “Premium” Offering: Think “signature salad,” made-from-scratch ingredients, or more elaborate menu descriptions like “hand-picked jumbo lump crab.”
  • Nutrition Information: 38% of consumers say it’s important that restaurants provide nutrition information for their salads (and 53% say they order salad because it’s a healthy option).
  • More Variety: Fruit-heavy salads, grain-based salads, or more unique flavors such as sesame -ginger, curry or mesquite.

In creating a three-dimensional salad, Foodservice Warehouse emphasizes three important things; flavor, texture and contrast. Warm seasoned fish on a bed of crunchy chilled greens is a combination customers will love. With endless options of ingredients, salads are a versatile item sure to sizzle.

Seafood Sandwiches

sandwichIt’s no secret that Americans love sandwiches, the simple food concept – slap ingredients between two pieces of bread – is ingrained (pun intended) in the country’s culture. In fact, according to food research firm Technomic, Inc., consumers eat more than three sandwiches per week, on average. However, Technomic notes that nearly half of these consumers are preparing sandwiches themselves. So, how do foodservice establishments entice consumers to purchase sandwiches away from the home? Go fish!

Experts agree: operators need to focus on high-quality ingredients and hard-to-duplicate sandwiches to attract consumers, making fish and seafood the perfect centerpiece.

Research shows that Americans prefer to eat seafood while dining out, in part due to apprehension of making it themselves at home. Dining establishments can leverage this tendency paired with the ongoing trend of healthful eating by offering seafood sandwiches on their menu.

From a salmon bahn mi to grilled whitefish with vegetables and avocado on a bun to a baked swordfish meatball sub, seafood offers versatile sandwich options customers will love.

Build It

shutterstock_440619877.jpgThe versatile flavors and textures of seafood paired with myriad toppings, condiments, and bread choices create the opportunity for countless combinations. If you’re building a seafood sandwich from scratch, here’s a guide:

  1. Begin with Bread – A general rule, the more moisture, the drier and denser the bread should be – and don’t forget about tortillas, pitas, and buns
  2. Spread it – Condiments and spreads add flavor and lend moisture to sandwiches
  3. Pack Protein – Seafood packs flavor and protein without adding a large amount of calories or saturated fat
  4. Cheese, Please – Layer sliced cheese as near to the bread as possible to help  reinforce the sandwich, if melting: lay atop the protein to enhance flavors
  5. Load Produce – Think raw veggies, like the classic lettuce and tomato, to roasted and pickled varieties
  6. Cut carefully – Use a serrated knife, and use a long sawing motion

The Toast Trend

shutterstock_589730435.jpgOne of the country’s leading food trends right now is artisanal toast. While a well-done cinnamon sugar toast may fulfill your customers’ cravings for childhood comfort food, it will likely leave them hungry since there isn’t any meaningful amount of protein. Turn trendy toast from a treat to a satisfying snack or meal by using seafood as an unexpected topping.

The following combinations are both tasty and filling:

  • smoked trout and cream cheese
  • canned tuna and avocado
  • smoked salmon and green olive spread
  • crab with artichokes and pesto
  • chopped shrimp with olive oil and garlic

Seafood Small Plates

shutterstock_114469084.jpgRestaurant trends indicate small plates and appetizers are continuing to grow in popularity among consumers. Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic, Inc. says, “Our data shows that consumer purchases of appetizers are steadily getting closer to pre-recession levels.”

Small plates are enticing to customers who are interested in trying new foods and flavors, without the fear of committing to a large entrée they may not enjoy. They’re also popular with customers who can’t narrow down to one entrée, but can instead order a variety of smaller options. According to Mr. Tristano, the shareable, fun factor and versatility of small plate options help them function as menu differentiators. 

The good news? Seafood fits in swimmingly! Thirty-seven percent of consumers have broadened their definition of snacks to include more types of foods like mini sandwiches, sliders or wraps according to the Technomic: Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report. And, seafood makes the perfect protein in all of these – so don’t let your fish hibernate in the freezer this winter! Add small seafood plates to your menu by scaling down previous center-of-the-plate seafood entrées or developing new bite-sized seafood recipes that customers won’t be able to resist adding to their order.

shutterstock_648760279.jpgWhy Consumers are Enticed by Small Plates

  • Shareable
  • Grazeable
  • Experimental
  • Portion Controllable
  • Calorie Controllable

Stay Warm with Seafood Soup

shutterstock_251697118.jpgSoup has reigned in the category of comfort food since ancient times. As the Executive Chef of the New England Soup Factory, Marjorie Druker, told QSR Magazine, “Soup is like coffee, it will never go away. People are always going to need it, love it, and want it.” And as soup offerings continue to evolve, consider fruits of the sea in your next batch.

Think seafood soup is just about chowders? Think again. Seafood soup options extend well beyond the traditional potato-and seafood blend. From broth-based to creamy and bisques to stews, seafood works wonderfully as a foundation, or addition, to many soups. Think of culinary favorites like Cioppino and Bouillabaisse or spicy cod-and-fennel stew and salmon wild rice soup, not to mention America’s most-consumed seafood, shrimp. Shrimp is found in everything from coconut shrimp curry to butternut squash and shrimp soup. Soup is comfort food at its best. So, entice customers with simmering soups that feature seafood.

The Broth Boom

shutterstock_146106581Bone broth has the sought-after “superfood” label associated with it. The gelatinous stock, which can be made by boiling meat, vegetables, or fish, “results in a taste and flavor profile that is a far cry from its mass-produced cousins,” according to Forbes. The health profile boasts the protection of joints and bones, improved memory and sleep, and immune support. Take advantage of the bone broth craze and consider adding seafood-derived bone broth to your menu this winter, as a base to a soup or a stand-alone drink.