This article first appeared in the 1 September 2005 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com
Few menu items better illustrate the differences between the white-tablecloth, casual- and family-dining, and quick-service segments than the varieties of seafood offered. At the 25 largest R&I Top 100 Independent Restaurants, an average of 27 types of fish and shellfish are served. Benefiting from favorable cost and popularity, shrimp is menued most often, available at 22. Also commonly menued are salmon, crab, tuna, oysters, scallops, calamari, mussels and sea bass.
Shrimp also is the favorite of the 30 largest full-service chains, 19 of which menu it, with salmon a close second. Cod, catfish, crab, tilapia and trout are midprice-chain favorites.
Many seafood species' mild flavors make them ideal candidates for pairing with boldly seasoned spices and sauces. Examples include The Cheesecake Factory's Firecracker Salmon Rolls with sweet-hot chile sauce and Jamaican Black Pepper Shrimp with hot black-pepper sauce and cool mango salsa.
At the QSR level, seafood remains a rarity, except at specialists such as Long John Silver's. Nine of the 25 largest limited-service chains have fish on their menus, most often fried in a sandwich, though tuna appears at Quiznos Sub and Tim Hortons.
On the Menu
Seafood appears baked, broiled, fried and raw on menus. Among on-trend preparations:
Grilled and Glazed
Flame-grilled Atlantic salmon glazed with honey-pepper sauce and served with almond rice pilaf, seasonal vegetable and garlic toast. -Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar, multiple locations
Layers of Flavors Bronzed tilapia fillet with sautéed artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and green onions in light lemon-Alfredo sauce. -Outback Steakhouse, multiple locations
Fried Parmesan-crusted Virginia trout with hollandaise sauce, roasted red potatoes and snow peas. -Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington, D.C.
According to R&I's 2005 Menu Census, these are the most commonly menued fish and shellfish varieties: