How are restaurateurs using fish in their menus?

September 19 2014

Fish is such a versatile dish that operators have been using for years in their menus. Whether it's as the main attraction at dinner, as an appetizing starter or tossed in a salad, there are many different ways of preparing this food and its distinctive taste adds a real sense of fragrance and flavour to dishes.

Here, we'll look at some of the trends, the different ways in which restaurants are offering fish and some of the associated challenges that this brings. 


With the benefits that oily fish such as mackerel and sardines bring, such as containing protein, vitamins B and D, the health-conscious consumer is likely to choose this type of dish as opposed to something that's not quite so beneficial. 

Some individuals are trying to cut down their meat intake, whether this is for health or ethical reasons, and one compromise is to become a pescetarian, where you still eat fish. 

With these in mind, it's important for operators to ensure they have a wide range of fish-related items on the menu to cater for consumers who are actively looking to consume more of this food. 

Providing something a little different is also predicted to be on consumers' priority list for this year. In up-and-coming protein trends, Restaurants Canada predicts underutilized fish will make an appearance, such as mackerel, bluefish and redfish. In addition, non-traditional fish like branzino, Arctic char and barramundi are expected to increase their menu incidence this year. 


Food research firm Technomic cites a few different examples of how restaurants are incorporating fish into their menus. For instance, Rubio's offers a sustainable pan-seared shrimp enchiladas, containing a melted three-cheese blend, cilantro and onion wrapped in tortillas and covered in sauce. This fusion of Mexican food is on-trend at the moment and is an innovative way of including shrimp. 

Pret A Manger offers both a maine lobster roll that contains chunks of the fish's claws and knuckles, while it has a maine lobster salad on the menu as well. This features the same sections of the creature, along with romaine lettuce, avocado, grape tomatoes, red onions and lemon juice. 

Associated challenges

Simply serving up a good range of fish is not as simple as it sounds. One key issue that operators need to bear in mind is sustainability. Consumers are increasingly wanting to know where their food comes from and ensure it's been shipped in a way that's environmentally friendly. 

Indeed, restaurant and food trends for 2014 are littered with such predictions and concerns. Restaurant Canada found that sustainable seafood came second for both current and future protein trends, while National Restaurant Association's What's Hot survey showed that locally-sourced meats and seafood topped the pile of food trends to watch out for. In addition, environmental sustainability came in third while sustainable seafood took ninth position. 

Making it obvious to consumers as to where the fish has come from is important when serving it, as this is likely to be a question that servers will be asked. Being transparent and upfront about this is important, even if it's not the answer patrons are wanting to hear. Making every effort to include some form of sustainable or locally-sourced fish dishes could go a long way to enticing consumers through your restaurant doors. 

Technomic highlighted the issue of price - sometimes simply providing exotic fish dishes will come at a premium, not to mention whether or not it's sustainable. 

"The key seems to be for fast-casual restaurants to serve tasteful, flavourful seafood sandwiches at a reasonable price. Aim too high and the sandwich will underperform, aim too low and restaurants may sacrifice profit margins - or the consumer may even question the quality of the seafood meat," Technomic stated. 

By highlighting how healthy and fresh items are, this could encourage consumers to part with their cash.