Still Tasting Great

Potatoes play a huge role at foodservice

Published online: Apr 26, 2017
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This column appears in the May 2017 issue of Potato Grower. 

Potatoes USA recently completed a study of how restaurant patrons view potatoes. One of the key findings from this study is that potatoes drive traffic at foodservice. More than half (54 percent) of patrons enjoy potatoes more than once a month while dining out. Potato dishes represent three of the four most frequently ordered side dishes:

  1. French fries
  2. Salad
  3. Mashed potatoes
  4. Baked potato 

Further, 47 percent of patrons prefer meals that include potatoes over meals that do not, and 46 percent say meals with potatoes are a better value. Not surprisingly, consumers age 25 to 44 eat more potatoes at foodservice than any other age group.

However, it was very clear that versatility is crucial for consumers, as seen from the fact that 69 percent of patrons are looking for dishes that use potatoes in new, unexpected ways, while 54 percent of consumers want healthier potato options on the menu. Consumers are also seeking greater flexibility in customizing flavor profiles for baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato chips and french fries. 

Not surprisingly, fries continue to reign supreme, as they are the single largest menu application category by volume, with 5.8 billion pounds sold into foodservice in 2016. Mashed potatoes, hash browns/breakfast potatoes, roasted and baked potatoes are the next-largest potato menu application categories. It is reassuring to see that 77 percent of consumers say they eat fries at least once a month and that fries are enjoyed by consumers of all ages. However, the frequency begins to taper off among consumers over 55 years old.

Chips are also very popular at foodservice and are consumed equally by men and women in that sector. Interestingly, men are more frequent consumers of potatoes across all formats at foodservice. One important point to note is that consumers would like to see more “on-trend” potato chip options on the menu.

Consumers are driving the demand for potatoes at foodservice. Their desire for more “on-trend” dishes is an opportunity for the potato industry when developing new products for the foodservice sector, or when working with chefs and foodservice operations on menu development. Knowing that flavor can be a powerful driver to attract foodservice patrons to new applications and that new preparation methods and herbs can help boost the health perceptions of potatoes among consumers, potatoes can maintain their prominence on the menu if the industry continues to address these consumer desires.

Potatoes USA recently commissioned Techonomic, Inc. to conduct a patron study on consumer attitudes and usage related to potatoes when eating at restaurants and other foodservice establishments. The research validated recent trends, but also identified opportunities.

For a copy of the complete Foodservice Potato Patron Study, please contact Kim Breshears at kim@potatoesusa.com.