Potatoes: A profitable and popular menu item for restaurants
Potatoes are an essential part of the restaurant landscape.
A recent study of 1,500 patrons (consumers who eat out at restaurants) uncovered the potato dishes diners love to order, potato dishes they choose to swap in place of other options presented to them, and their overall expectations regarding potatoes at restaurants.
Interestingly, 53% of consumers are willing to pay $5.20 more for a main dish with potatoes than without them, regardless of how they are served. The amount they are willing to pay increases as the restaurant’s quality increases. This is excellent news for the potato and foodservice industries because it increases the demand for potatoes and helps an establishment’s bottom line.
Another great point for restaurant managers is that potatoes are such a staple that patrons are disappointed when menus do not include potatoes. Over half of the patrons surveyed (60%) expect to see potatoes on menus. This expectation is higher in casual dining (e.g., Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse) and midscale restaurants (e.g., Huddle House, Cracker Barrel) than in fast food restaurants (e.g., McDonald’s, Wendy’s), primarily due to more expansive menu offerings.
The key motivators driving consumers to order potatoes are largely their taste, followed by being satisfying, flavorful and satiating.
The number-one dish ordered by those surveyed is fries, with 82% of consumers reporting they order them at least occasionally, followed by mashed potatoes and hash browns. With diners’ appetite for potatoes, it makes sense that fries show up on 72% of U.S. menus, which is a 3% increase over the past four years, according to Datassential’s potato menu trends report.
Chefs are keeping their kitchens stocked with fry supplies, too. Technomic, another foodservice research company, shows that frozen fry sales to the foodservice industry increased by 369 million pounds from
July to June compared to the prior year. The ways to incorporate fries on menus are vast; keeping tabs on where growth is projected is important. Loaded fries continue to grow in popularity, increasing 37% on menus over the past four years, and are on a trajectory to increase by 15% in the future.
When swapping dishes, salads are the No. 1 item that consumers replace with potatoes when given a choice. The potato industry’s efforts to provide education about potato nutrition are helping create a positive perception so that consumers see potatoes as a lighter fare option when making meal choices at restaurants. The industry can also work with chefs to encourage them to offer potato dishes prepared in healthier ways, such as roasted or grilled, to decrease the chance of potato dishes being replaced with another item due to perception.
Potatoes allow restaurants to use terms like gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan to describe menu items — words that diners are looking for when searching for options that meet specific eating patterns. Restaurants can leverage these terms to encourage people seeking mindfully prepared meals away from home to order potato dishes.
For more details, scan the QR code to review and download a one-page recap of the patron study. These insights are useful when meeting with foodservice industry representatives and explaining the benefits of adding more potato dishes to their menus. For additional information on the Patron Study and other information, reach out to [email protected].