Why Responsibly Sourced Seafood Is a Menu Must
Underutilized species appeal to diners’ social consciousness, while benefiting the planet and bottom line.
There’s a question that diners are asking restaurateurs more frequently these days: “Do you serve sustainable seafood?”
How a restaurant answers that question has an increasingly significant influence on diners’ orders.
According to new independent global research, sustainability is a key driver of seafood purchases. Rating it more highly than price and brand, 72 percent of those individuals surveyed agree that in order to save the oceans, consumers should only eat seafood from well-managed sources. Meanwhile, 68 percent say people should be prepared to switch to more sustainable seafood — which often means ordering underutilized species.
These insights demonstrate that seafood consumers are attuned to the need for sustainability and that they are prepared to change their eating habits to protect the oceans, says Marine Stewardship Council chief executive Rupert Howes. “Citizens feel empowered to vote for sustainability with their wallets.”
Research shows that everyone from millennials to baby boomers care about sustainability. For example, seventy-five percent of seafood consumers aged 55, and 67 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds agree with the need to eat seafood only from sustainable sources.
With consumers’ growing awareness around responsible seafood sourcing practices, operators have a key opportunity to demonstrate they care about protecting the planet by serving sustainable seafood. At the same time, it also enables them to sell more diverse, and often more profitable, types of seafood, such as responsibly farmed rainbow trout, lionfish and premium lake-grown tilapia from Mexico, Honduras and Indonesia.
Below are FIVE TIPS FOR RESTAURANT OPERATORS who want to say “yes” to responsibly sourced seafood:
Partner with sourcing experts
Before you can serve sustainable seafood, you must know how to source it. Knowing which species are currently sustainable can be a moving target, so it’s best to align your restaurant with an expert, such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council or Best Aquaculture Practices. These groups can provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to help you decide how and where to responsibly source your seafood.
Talk about sustainability
Though many big name chefs are committing to serving responsibly sourced seafood, only 1 percent of all seafood menus directly mention high value claims like “sustainability,” according to the Datassential 2017 Seafood Keynote report.
To capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in sustainability — and ultimately sell more seafood — make certain your servers are knowledgeable about your offerings and capable of articulating to diners the sustainable choices you offer. In addition, don’t hesitate to indicate on your menu, with text or an icon, which dishes include seafood or other ingredients that are responsibly sourced.
Explore lesser-known species
Salmon and tuna may be the two most popular species — and the most menued — according to Datassential MenuTrends, but other sustainable choices like premium lake-grown Tilapia abound. All you have to do is to convince diners to try them.
To demonstrate to customers that lesser-known sustainable species can be just as tasty as the fish they’re already familiar with, some chefs suggest serving these unfamiliar fish with easily recognizable preparations. For example, prepare a versatile fish such as premium tilapia with one of today’s top flavors, like curry, cilantro and sesame, or with a traditional pairing like lemon and garlic. Other chefs recommend the addition of something special or rare to an unfamiliar species, such as serving baked rockfish or lionfish with a lobster or truffle cream sauce.
Menu a local specialty
Is there a well-managed species native to the area in which your restaurant is located? If so, menu it — and then be sure your servers talk to customers about its history and importance to the community. Telling a good fish and seafood story will resonate with consumers and hopefully persuade them to choose this item.
Sandwiches, sliders and sides
Consumers love seafood-centric dishes, but that doesn’t mean a restaurant must only menu a traditional center-of-the-plate entrée with two sides. In addition to presenting sustainable, underutilized seafood as a center-of-the-plate offering, try showcasing it in a nontraditional and novel way, such as an ingredient in a slider or open-faced sandwich.
Slapfish, which is located in Huntington Beach, Calif., demonstrates the versatility of a responsibly sourced fish like Regal Springs Tilapia in a variety of menu items. The Tilapia Ramen Burrito contains crispy tilapia, vegetables, miso sauce and braised pork while the Tilapia Power Bowl combines tilapia with avocado, greens, quinoa, veggies and a honey-lime vinaigrette.
Other seafood dishes like poke, ceviche, paella and gumbo are also popular with today’s consumers and provide effective vehicles for showcasing a wide variety of sustainable species.
However you choose to feature seafood on your menu, make sure to familiarize yourself with the best practices associated with sustainability, and clearly communicate your intentions to your staffers and clientele.
Allied content from Penton Restaurant Group