October 10, 2012: Barbeque

Yes, I realize we’re well into October, and that snow has already fallen across some of the upper Plains and Midwestern states. And I know that when most of us think barbecue, we’re planning 4th of July picnics and other summer outings.

But barbecue is hot-and I’m not talking about the spiciness of the sauce. Food industry research firm Technomic reports that “Barbecue is increasingly prevalent on menus.” In fact 57 percent of the restaurants they track offer at least one dish with barbecue sauce, and 63 percent of the Top 500 restaurant chains offer barbecue as a flavor, ingredient or preparation style.

Overall, according to Technomic’s research, menu incidence of barbecue sauce is up more than 5 percent in the past year. Why the popularity? Technomic suggests that “barbecue is very versatile and, more importantly, very different depending on regionality.”

If you’re planning on opening a new restaurant, or expanding the menu at your current eatery, here are some specific barbecue trends you should know:

  • The spicy/pepper-flavored barbecue sauces are gaining in popularity, while the sweet/honey-style sauces are declining.
  • A large majority of the barbecue sauce mentions on restaurant menus don’t mention a specific flavor, which Technomic says means restaurant owners are being innovative and likely mixing their own blends.
  • Restaurants that sell barbecued meats most commonly offer coleslaw on the side, followed by French fries and baked beans.
  • The most frequently used barbecue preparation is smoked, and pork is the meat that’s most often offered.

While I was writing this, I serendipitously got an email from Dickey’s Barbecue, a fast-growing franchise chain (250 locations) touting its concept, and that Nation’s Restaurant News named them one of the “Top Five Growth Chains.”

Technomic says “barbecue is a perennial consumer favorite when dining out.” I have to agree. In fact, every year, my business partners and I have our holiday celebration at a local barbecue joint…proof positive barbecue isn’t just for summer anymore. Yum!