Beef prices are continuing to rise in 2014 with no signs of improving anytime soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in December that “ground beef was at $3.46 a pound, up from $3.08 a year earlier.” Major droughts in the cattle ranching areas of the country have caused US herds to fall to a 60 year low.
Unsurprisingly, the increase in beef prices along with more sustainable restaurant practices are leading to the retooling of meat offerings. Changes can start by simply focusing on different cuts of beef such as cheek, short rib, and flat-iron steaks in order to use every part of the animal from “nose-to-tail”. Another possibility is to add different meat options to the menu, such as rabbit, venison, pork and lamb. Aside from making the increase in beef prices more manageable, these changes can help meet the needs of restaurant goers looking for more unique meals.
Chicken is seeing the biggest increase in demand from consumers and restaurants as they reject the price increases on red meat. According to Bloomberg, this is causing many QSR chains to rethink how chicken is used on their menus. McDonald’s is offering chicken as an alternative to beef on certain sandwiches, Pizza Hut is adding wings nationwide, and Yum! Brands released a new concept called Super Chix.
This change toward chicken is leading to a great year for poultry producers so far, with some possibly unable to catch up. “We’re sold out,” said Ed Fryar, the CEO of Ozark Mountain Poultry who didn’t anticipate demand to be so strong in 2014.
In addition to menu changes, some steakhouses are also making changes in setup and design. Many are moving away from formal settings and offering a more approachable and casual atmosphere. The old-school steakhouse “template” can often be seen as a boy’s club, where the new-age steakhouse is accessible to anyone. This isn’t to say there aren’t “old-school” models that excel, but there is a new collection of chefs focusing on a relaxing atmosphere while challenging themselves with different meats.
Although CEOs and other expense account executives won’t care about the rising prices of beef, many younger consumers who drive the restaurant business are taking notice. The idea is to attract the everyday consumer and open your base. Incorporating some unique changes will excite your customers by what is new on your menu versus what may be missing.