Chatter on Social Media Spots Hot Culinary Trends


Bring on the biscuits, yogurt, and doughnuts.

According to a recent report from social media intelligence firm newBrandAnalytics, biscuits, yogurt, and doughnuts were the top trending menu items of 2013.

Attaching its ear to online channels such as Yelp, OpenTable, and TripAdvisor, newBrandAnalytics' second annual report—“Social Media Food Trends Index”—uncovered the most popular dishes and ingredients of 2013 by monitoring the online feedback of more than 100 buzz-worthy restaurants across the country, including celebrated spots like Houston’s Underbelly, New York City’s Babbo, MB Post in Manhattan Beach, California, and Chicago’s Girl & the Goat.

While newBrandAnalytics chief marketing officer Susan Ganeshan acknowledges that a single gushing comment about a particular dish on Yelp can only be taken at face value, she says the repeated mention of dishes and ingredients in unsolicited, heat-of-the-moment reviews in which consumers state an intent to return highlights a restaurant’s ability to build revenue and foster customer loyalty with relevant menu items.

“A study like this dives into the details of restaurant [menus] that many want to live up to and shows what’s catching diners’ attention,” Ganeshan says.

The 40-page report extracted insights from more than 20,000 online reviews to identify the top trending items across six categories: bread, starters, game proteins, seafood, vegetables and key ingredients, and desserts.

From 2012 to 2013, newBrandAnalytics found significant turnover in the bread and starters segment, as biscuits and charcuterie moved into the top spots of those respective categories. Ceviche was the only starter to appear in the top five on both the 2012 and 2013 lists, even making headway to land in the runner-up spot.

Among protein entrées, duck earned the top spot, followed by quail and turkey, a repeat of 2012’s top three. The seafood rankings were also consistent from year to year as tuna, sea bass, halibut, and salmon remained the top four fin-fish offerings. Lobster, meanwhile, held onto its leading spot in the shellfish category by edging out list newcomer crab.

Though Brussels sprouts claimed the first position among vegetables, the miniature cabbage’s popularity slipped throughout the year. Cauliflower and kale were new top-five entrants on the 2013 vegetable list.

In the key ingredients category, egg/egg yolk surged from outside the top five in 2012 into 2013’s first position, replacing 2012 list-leader truffle, which fell into the third slot in 2013.

And, finally, key lime pie stormed onto the 2013 list as the most popular dessert, blazing a path followed by two other dessert newcomers: butterscotch and doughnuts.

With these insights in hand, Ganeshan says restaurant leaders and culinary teams can review their own menus to determine what might be added, eliminated, or refined to make the menu more hip and relevant. For instance, as flatbread is trending downward, menu planners might move to something more innovative, such as biscuit sandwiches, or streamline their existing flatbread offerings by whittling the existing lineup of six flatbread items down to the two most popular.

“There’s certainly room for learning here, and ways that restaurants can bring new additions to the menu or make existing items more prominent so the restaurant and its dishes better resonate with customers,” Ganeshan says.

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