Should there be more seafood on your menu?

March 18 2015

Healthy eating is a priority for many of today's restaurant customers. And, while diners want food that's good for their bodies, most don't want to sacrifice anything in terms of flavour - which is why seafood is quickly growing in popularity.

According to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report, nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of customers who are eating more seafood dishes say they're doing so for health reasons.

The health benefits of seafood

So, what makes seafood such a healthy choice? For one thing, it's very high in protein and low in fat. Many types of seafood are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids - these have been linked to a variety of health benefits, such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia, to boosting mood and brain development in children. That's why the Canadian government recommends everyone eat at least two servings of seafood a week - one of which should be a variety that's high in Omega-3s. 

It's also easy to prepare seafood in a healthy way. Seafood can be broiled, grilled, steamed, sauted or poached - cooking methods that require little to no fat. A squeeze of lemon juice or a bit of seasoning is all it takes to finish off the dish.

Appealing to the health-conscious diner, however, isn't just about upping your seafood offering. You also need to consider issues like how fresh the food is and whether it was organically raised.

Technomic's Consumer Trend Report found that 43 per cent of heavy seafood users said that organic was an important attribute in their seafood choices. More than 60 per cent said that they looked for certified seafood when making a decision about what to eat. Since these issues are so important to many consumers, be sure to include them in your menu descriptions where appropriate.

Adding seafood to your menu

Technomic's research found that 54 per cent of consumers say they would like more seafood dishes on the menu. Younger customers were even more interested in seeing additional options - 62 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 said they'd like restaurants to offer a wider variety of seafood. So, if you think your menu could do with a few more choices, here are some tips for creating new dishes.

  • Keep it simple - Creating new seafood dishes can be as simple as flame-grilling a fillet, topping it with fresh salsa and serving with seasonal vegetables.
  • Get creative with your carbs - Pasta dishes are a popular choice for seafood, but if you're appealing to a more health-conscious crowd, consider mixing things up with other types of carbohydrates - like couscous or quinoa.
  • Think of seafood as a meat alternative - If you have a popular meat entree, try to find a way to convert it to a seafood-based meal. For example, if your speciality is burgers, then why not offer a tuna burger as well? Or how about replacing the bacon in a BLT with strips of smoked salmon? 
  • Ethnic influences - In many cultures, fish is a much more predominant source of protein, so it makes sense that food from other countries can be a great source of seafood inspiration. How about a Chinese-style stir-fry with prawns or a Spanish paella full of shellfish?