Restaurant trends are always changing. Whether your guests are craving poke, pancakes, or unicorn lattes, it’s important to keep your menu up to date with the most popular dishes. And while everyone knows how seasonal specials can boost your bottom line (is it PSL season yet?), we’re just starting to realize just how regional these trends can be.
Wherever you are right now, you can be sure your guests have pretty unique tastes. Are you reading this while you drink hot chocolate? Or are you sipping a mai tai in your bathing suit? Regional weather is one clear indicator that guests around the country have different cravings – but it doesn’t end there. From Chicago’s Italian beef sandwiches to New Orleans’ Gulf-caught seafood, every major city has its traditions. It makes sense that customers in different areas will have different ideas about what makes a restaurant menu great.
Last year, GrubHub collected information about the most popular dishes in major cities around the country – and some of the findings may surprise you. Who knew Philadelphia rolls would be such a hit in Phoenix, AZ?
- Kansas City, Mo.: Mac and cheese — 447% rise in popularity
- Miami: Sweet plantains — 418% rise in popularity
- Austin, Texas: Chicken fajitas — 416% rise in popularity
- Phoenix: Philadelphia roll — 403% rise in popularity
- Portland, Ore.: Grilled steak burrito — 397% rise in popularity
- Chicago: Chicken taquitos — 373% rise in popularity
- Boston: Butter naan — 362% rise in popularity
- Cleveland: Loaded fries — 350% rise in popularity
- Seattle: Bacon cheeseburgers — 344% rise in popularity
- Detroit: Lettuce chicken wraps — 340% rise in popularity
- New York: Spicy miso ramen — 331% rise in popularity
- Dallas: Beef burger — 325% more popularly ordered in Dallas this year
- St. Louis: Steak tacos — 316% rise in popularity
- Philadelphia: Sweet potato tots — 308% rise in popularity
- Houston: Beef fajitas — 289% rise in popularity
- Los Angeles: Poke — 260% rise in popularity
- Atlanta: Buttermilk pancakes — 234% rise in popularity
- San Diego: Shrimp taco — 218% rise in popularity
- Las Vegas: Tuna sandwich — 203% rise in popularity
- Denver: Tonkotsu ramen — 152% rise in popularity
- Washington: Pho — 143% rise in popularity
- San Francisco: Buttermilk fried chicken — 136% rise in popularity
Looking at the data from 2017 can inform the decisions restaurant operators make in the year ahead. As some trends go up, others will go down. For example: lettuce wraps landed squarely in the middle of the list last year, with a 340% rise in popularity in Detroit. In 2018, this dish is forecasted to be more popular than ever, with a 184% average rise in popularity every month. Other light dishes, like poke and bulgogi, are also near the top of the list.
Whatever dishes you choose to serve, one thing is clear from this body of research. Cloud-based data is more important than ever – especially for restaurants. If you’re not already saving information about every customer’s order, now’s the time to start. Put your most valuable marketing tool to good use by analyzing the hottest trends, and changing your menu accordingly.