Pho Soup Prepared, Steaming, And Ready To Eat
Brisket Being Sliced Perfectly By A Chef
Purple, Green, And White Cauliflower
A Dimly Lit Restaurant Showcases A Plate Of Charcuterie
A Coconut Split In Half
A Cup Of Coffee With A Swirl Inside. The Menu Item Remains Popular Through The Centuries
Edamame In A Bowl
Ripe Jackfruit Yellow And Ready To Be Picked
A Homemade Cup Of Pho Soup
A Mexican Feast, Complete With Tacos, Cheese, Salsa, Guacamole, And Refried Beans
A Table Full Of Tamales
Tater Tot Topped With Braised Short Rib
Big data, bigger decisions

Forget surveys. Upserve wanted to provide a report based on big data, not polled responses. The point-of-sale, payment, and analytics provider released its inaugural restaurant industry report based on millions of transactions from thousands of restaurants around the U.S. The company also performed a retroactive analysis of 2017 menu trends. Because of its POS, credit card processing, and analytics capabilities, Upserve was able to review millions of transactions to derive insights on key topics like staff turnover, payments, and menu trends.

To start, here are 13 menu items the data showed need to be on your menu, ASAP.

Note: Each item was given an “Upserve Performance Score” from 0–10. Upserve came up with the number by taking an item’s sales volume and comparing it against the sales volume across all sales, which the company believes is a better signal of lasing power among diners than just plain sales volume. 


Score: 8.94

According to the data, brisket has grown in demand year-over-year since 2015. It started off strong last year and shows no signs of slowing down. Brisket is versatile as well. As many chefs are proving, it’s not just for barbecue anymore.


Score: 8.02

Sales continued to rise through 2017, which continues an upward trend dating back to 2015. Such stable growth makes it a prime candidate to continue tracking in the right direction. Cauliflower rice, anybody?


Score: 6.20

As you might imagine, charcoal isn’t exactly the most widely found menu item in foodservice. But it is climbing, steeply. Charcoal menu items (mostly cocktails) from 2015 to 2017 are up in a major way, paving the way for an even bigger 2018. Activated charcoal is seen by some as a detoxifying agent, but the actual effects are disputed. No matter, it’s Instagramable to the next degree.


Score: 7.1

Charcuterie dipped a bit at the end of the year, data showed. Before that it was on a steady incline since 2015. Upserve suggests ignoring the blip in performance. It’s a consistent seller that diners often turn to, especially those into sharing and snacking (millennial alert). It’s also a great way to feature a made in-house staple night-to-night. Charcuterie is also a great way to cut down on food waste if you get creative


Score: 7.80

Coconut flies in summer and spring and trails off in colder months. Typically. The product showed a year-to-year flat trend line but also one that stayed popular in 2017. That bodes well for the future. It never hurts to remind diners of better times when it’s 12 degrees outside.


Score: 8.44

An obvious choice but one restaurants should covet nonetheless. The data showed that coffee has been growing incrementally in popularity, year-over-year, with larger sales in the winter. While there’s pretty much zero chance of it losing popularity, try getting creative. Adding butter is becoming a big deal. Of course, cold brew and nitro cold brew in all forms remains a seller, even mixed with sparkling options as Stumptown Coffee has tested out. Think sparkling honey-lemon cold brew and sparkling ginger-citrus. Check out some other ideas here.


Score: 6.98

Edamame’s popularity dipped below prior-year levels at times during 2017. It’s overall average score, however, was higher than the previous two years, showing a trendline that points to steady demand in 2018. Healthy, sharable, easy to prepare. 


Score: 3.84

Jackfruit saw an impressive 131 percent growth in popularity in 2017. Vegans could have told you this day was coming. The tree-borne fruit, often billed as a healthy and sustainable meat replacement, is taking off while the arrow in foodservice continues to push toward more mindful eating. If you court this kind of guest, jackfruit will be a welcome sight.


Score: 6.33

Mead fell between 2015–2016 but saw a strong rise in popularity in 2017. Is mead the next big craft movement? Consider the reality that it’s the ultimate craft of a craft-driven drink world. The honey wine, which is created by fermenting honey with water, is also a perfect vehicle for flavors. And, simply, it’s still one of the few drinks you can menu and still draw a curious glance from guests. Read more about it here


Score: 7.28

Pho sales grew year-over-year since 2016 and reported a very strong 2017 with an average score of 7.28. This indicates that the demand for the Vietnamese soup is strong. The model is very flexible as well. It can roll in quick service, as an entire full-service model, or as one menu offering in a broader arrangement. Is pho the next poke? Perhaps, but with better food costs and more seasonal appeal.


Score: 9.81

One look at that score will tell you all you need to know. Tacos are perennially popular, and its average score never dipped below 9.4 in 2017. They’re even more coveted in summer. Overall, tacos were down a touch in 2017 but that’s all relative to their yearly success. Simply, no matter what kind of cuisine you serve, it’s hard to go wrong with putting your food in between some tortillas, shells, or whatever you have in mind. 


Score: 5.91

Tamales had a rough 2016 but rebounded in 2017 and closed the year strong, showing 2018 could be its breakout year. Tamales are perfect for the snacking crazy and the on-the-go diner, as well as those who like ordering small plates and sharing. Small menu items packing flavor are gaining steam.

Tater Tots

Score: 6.41

Tater tots have picked up momentum since 2015 and ended 2017 with a higher score than the previous two years. Once a very distant menu cousin to the French fry, try giving the versatile spud a chance. Nothing quite loads up better than a plate of tater tots.

Menu Innovations, Slideshow