Thinking of Adding Barbecue to the Menu? Here Are Five Things to Know.

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There’s no denying Americans’ love of barbecue. These days, however, barbecue offerings are expanding to include ethnic flavors, healthier ingredients and premium proteins. From high-end chefs to fast-casual concepts, barbecue is evolving and becoming a menu must-have.

With interest in barbecue on the rise,1 here are five things to keep in mind when developing barbecue-inspired dishes.

Regional American Barbecue

From Texas to North Carolina, nearly every region offers its own unique style of barbecue, including preparation, meat and sauce. You may even be surprised to learn areas like upstate New York have their own style of barbecue—in this case a barbecue chicken with a vinegar-based sauce. South Carolina is known for whole-hog barbecue, while Texas is famous for beef brisket and Memphis-style barbecue is best known for pork ribs. Sauce is also a large factor in determining regional barbecue styles. For example, Kansas City is all about sweet BBQ sauce while North Carolina is known for its vinegar-based sauce and Alabama prefers a mayonnaise-based white barbecue sauce that is most often served on smoked chicken. Want to offer authentic barbecue on your menu? Pair meats and sauces that reflect specific regions, like Memphis-style dry ribs or South Carolina–style pork butt with a mustard-based sauce.

Fusion Barbecue

Expect to see a rise in fusion barbecue, a combination of regional American flavors with authentic international fare.2 As ethnic cuisine takes center stage, traditional barbecue dishes are evolving into something entirely new. Kemuri Tatsu-ya, a Japanese-inspired izakaya in Austin, Texas, is the perfect example. The restaurant fuses Texas barbecue with traditional Japanese fare, resulting in dishes like Texas Ramen with Brisket and the option to top with chili and smoked jalapeños. Even regional American barbecue styles are merging. KFC recently introduced a Smoky Mountain BBQ Chicken Sandwich, which fuses recipes from Memphis and the Carolinas to create a sauce that’s smoky, sweet and tangy.

Big, Bold Flavors

Barbecue is taking on bigger, bolder flavors. Spicy menu mentions have increased 22% from the fourth quarter of 2015 to the fourth quarter of 2017, with chipotle pepper increasing 79% in menu mentions during this time period.1 For example, TGI Friday’s offers a BBQ Chicken Flatbread, featuring a pulled all-natural chicken breast in a chipotle barbecue sauce. According to Mintel, jalapeño and sweet chili are also becoming more popular, as are menu mentions of smoked flavor.1

Health Conscious

With the growing demand toward healthier menu offerings, Technomic predicts barbecue bowls will grow in popularity among the health-conscious crowd.1 Barbecue-inspired bowls and salads positioned as healthy, protein-rich options will offer a variety of fresh veggies, grains and choice of barbecued meat. High-protein, low-carb diets can help drive demand for barbecued meats like pulled chicken and smoked turkey, which are often considered better for you than barbecue beef and pork.


A growing interest in sustainability1 and animal welfare3 has led chefs to become more conscious of protein sourcing. From whole hogs to organic chicken, operators are looking to offer more transparency in their barbecue offerings. Some chefs are choosing to break down the entire animal in-house1 to maximize yield while others are opting to menu premium proteins like turkey or chicken raised with no antibiotics4. Not only do operators feel more confident in their protein choices, but consumers also appreciate the commitment to sourcing quality proteins.

Traditional regional barbecue will always be popular, but these days, flavors and technique are crossing over to create entirely new flavor profiles to satisfy consumers’ evolving palates. Whether looking to serve something new and innovative or trying to reach the health-conscious crowd, barbecue can offer something for everything. Just make sure to consider the quality of your proteins. Now, more than ever, consumers seek out better-for-you ingredients like organic chicken and turkey with no antibiotics4 ever and a commitment to animal welfare.3

Content courtesy of Perdue Foodservice

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