1. Consumer Trends
Turkey lends itself to restaurant consumer trends; customers want convenience and quality. According to a study from the National Restaurant Association, 65 percent of restaurant meals are fast food, take-out and gourmet-dinner kits. Many operations, from fast food restaurants to employee cafeterias offer take-home dinners. Turkey has a place in each of these segments that cater to convenience. Turkey burgers, turkey salads and turkey tetrazzini are all part of the convenient offerings available throughout the United States.
Consumers also insist on quality with their dining experience. They want good food and service in a clean restaurant. Quality turkey products can assist the chef and kitchen staff with pre-portioned cuts. The flavor of turkey is diverse as noted by acclaimed Chef Loretta Barrett Oden of New Mexico, "Chefs can do anything with turkey. It's just asking for wonderful flavors to wear as its mantle."
2. Cultural Melting Pot
The market for ethnic fare continues to grow. In fact, ethnic food has grown to such an extent that Italian, Mexican and Cantonese cuisines have joined the mainstream, according to a National Restaurant Association consumer study. These three cuisines have become so entrenched in the U.S. culture they are no longer considered ethnic. The next wave of popular fare includes Thai, Caribbean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Turkey is so versatile and complements these cuisines.
According to a recent Menu Census, appetizers lead all menu categories as the category that has increasing sales. Examples of turkey appetizers that are popular throughout the states include Turkey Tortilla Crisps, Blackened Turkey on Sugarcane Skewers and Turkey Sate with Spicy Peanut Sauce.
4. Turkey Fare
Deep-fried turkey is a Cajun tradition that has gained national attention in the last few years. The trend has increased popularity because the deep-frying process seals the outside while the interior remains very juicy and the skin develops a crisp texture. Commercial catering operations offer deep-fried whole turkey or turkey parts and restaurants feature the golden crisp bird as an entree, sandwich or salad.
The guilt of eating sausage is diminished when customers order turkey sausages. The use of low-fat turkey products allows the foodservice industry to create interesting flavors. Creative combinations such as turkey andouille, Zinfandel turkey sausage and breakfast blueberry sausages made with ground turkey are receiving accolades from customers. Old standbys, such as Italian and Polish turkey sausages are also enjoying greater popularity.