Raw fish dishes reel in customers

Raw fish dishes reel in customers

With today’s consumers eating more seafood away from home, the opportunity for seafood growth on restaurant menus is ripe, especially with trendy raw preparations such as poke and sushi burritos, which are touted as healthful fast food.

According to Datassential’s 2017 Seafood Keynote Report, 62 percent of consumers report eating fish at least once a month, 41 percent eat shellfish with similar frequency, and about one-third expect to eat even more fish and shellfish in the coming year. Among the top reasons consumers are eating more fresh seafood is because it’s nutritious.

Raw seafood in particular is widely consumed because of its health benefits. Among other attributes, it is seen as being a good source of protein, rich omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, essential vitamins and minerals, and nutrients that may aid in preventing some common diseases.

Foodservice operators have found the health angle to be a good approach to selling seafood. Two out of five restaurateurs say that positioning seafood as a more healthful, better-for-you choice is the most effective way to market seafood, according to Datassential.

In addition, raw seafood preparations can be served quickly and made portable using takeout containers as a way to meet consumers’ continued need for fast, convenient meals.

Here are five raw preparations, which serve as a platform for a diverse variety of healthy, fast seafood:

  1. Poke
    Ever since urban fast-casual brands started serving poke, this Hawaiian dish of cubed raw fish has been catching on with consumers. It’s typically served in a bowl atop rice with a choice of fish and an array of toppings such as avocado, cucumber or radishes — although sometimes it’s presented as a taco or on a bed of greens.Poke is currently on 54 percent more menus than it was four years ago, but it’s only on 2 percent of menus nationwide, according to Datassential. Consequently, there’s a huge opportunity for operators to add these trendy fish bowls to their menus.
  2. Sushi burritos
    Japanese cuisine meets a popular Mexican format in these massive, customizable rolls of dried seaweed filled with raw strips of seafood such as premium sushi-grade tilapia called Izumidai, rice, avocado, julienned vegetables, cilantro, ginger and other ingredients. Though sushi burritos are a recent handheld innovation, 42 percent of consumers are familiar with “sushirritos”, according to Datassential.
  3. Crudo
    Italian for “raw,” this classic dish consists of thinly sliced fish that is drizzled with oil and an acidic component (lime, lemon, vinegar) and sprinkled with seasonings. A clean, simple dish, crudo is all about the ingredients and keeping the focus on the fish, whether it’s all-natural tilapia, scallops, halibut or branzino.
  4. Ceviche
    CevicheOften called the Latin answer to sushi and sashimi, ceviche is the Mexican and South American dish of cold citrus-cooked seafood. Once served mainly in the warmer months, in recent years many chefs have been offering ceviche year-round. Ceviche offers a platform for multiple varieties of fresh seafood — from tuna and premium tilapia to salmon and scallops — all in one dish.
  5. Tartare
    Tuna tartare has long been a staple on menus across the country, but this minced raw fish dish can be a canvas for a chef’s creativity. For example, adding soy and ginger gives it an Asian angle, while adding mango and pineapple provides a tropical twist. And, of course, chefs can experiment with types of fish — dicing up whatever species they prefer or have on hand. The light, tiny bits of fish make this dish a smoother experience than poke or sushi.


  • Keep it fresh: Not just the fish — that’s essential — but the types of fish used as well. Tuna and salmon may be tops, but mix things up by using other species. For example, Datassential’s research reveals that operators say tilapia is considered among the best-selling and most profitable species of fish.
  • Share the source. Improve perceptions of quality, value and freshness by sharing the source of your seafood, including the story of your seafood suppliers.
  • Let ‘em customize. If the success of Chipotle and Sweetgreen are any indication, consumers prefer to have their meals their way. Offering opportunities for consumers to build their own raw sushi, seafood bowl, or fish taco is one way to entice increased orders.
  • No need to specialize. Your restaurant doesn’t have to specialize in seafood for raw fish and shellfish dishes to be a hit with your customers. When ordering seafood items, consumers’ choice is based more on overall brand and menu fit than on whether or not seafood is a menu staple, according to Datassential.