Casual diners are most likely to order foods they are familiar with even when faced with choices they perceive to be healthier, according to the results of a recent survey by Chicago-based Culinary Visions® Panel.
Over two hundred consumers were asked to rate the healthfulness of four invisibly healthy entrée menu concepts, and then rate the likeliness that they would order each concept. The choices were based on real recipes for healthy menu items that could be easily prepared by casual dining establishments. The entrée choices included familiar proteins as well as less mainstream meats such as rabbit and lamb. The entrée choices also included a variety of cooking methods – some widely popular such as grilled, others emerging and considered on trend by independent restaurateurs like braised.
All menu concepts were highly perceived by both men and women to be healthy, yet the overwhelming choice by both sexes was the dish with familiar meat and vegetables – steak with salsa verde and roasted squash. Almost half of those surveyed said they would order the steak entrée.
Only 16% said they would order the rabbit ragu entrée. Braised baby lamb shank came in second behind the steak entrée with 20% saying they would order it, and the seafood stew rounded out the top three with 19% saying they would likely or very likely order the dish.
“When they are dining out in casual restaurants, American adults like steak,” said Sharon Olson, Executive Director. “We saw the likelihood of ordering the steak entrée significantly higher than the other menu concepts and women were more likely to order it than the men.”
The Culinary Visions Panel also asked casual restaurant diners about their preferences in the menu offerings at their favorite restaurant. Forty-six percent said they would not add any new entrées to their favorite restaurant’s menus. Interestingly, of those respondents who did offer menu additions, 13% suggested steak and 13% also suggested seafood dishes. To accompany steak entrées, diners mentioned potatoes, broccoli and asparagus, while suggesting potatoes and squash to go with seafood menu items.
Twelve percent of respondents said they would add chicken dishes to the menus at their favorite restaurants. Besides suggesting the standard roasted, fried and grilled chicken, diners also mentioned chicken Marsala, chicken Parmesan, baked chicken and even Cornish hens. Accompaniments for chicken included grilled vegetables, string beans, various potato dishes, rice dishes, couscous and bread stuffing.
Below are the menu concepts that Culinary Visions developed for the survey.
- Steak with Salsa Verde & Roasted Squash – Grilled 5 oz grass-fed beef top sirloin served with roasted delicata squash and arugula salsa verde.
- Seafood & Bean Stew – Clams, calamari and chorizo served in a rich thyme-infused broth of cannellini beans and kale.
- Braised Baby Lamb Shank with Olives, Figs, & Fennel – Grass-fed baby lamb shanks braised with orange, wine and tomato, finished with kalamata olives and black mission figs. Served with braised fennel and a minted farro salad on the side.
- Rabbit Ragu with Polenta & Rapini – Slow braised rabbit served over soft polenta with a side of rapini and lemon.