Barbecue: Not just a hit on the backyard grill, but also at restaurants

Barbecue is synonymous with summertime, and the 4th of July is the pinnacle of barbecue season. Leading restaurant operators have picked up on this trend, too, as limited-time (LTOs) featuring barbecue over the last year were most common in the summer months and least common in the winter. In the heart of barbecue season, Technomic’s Category Close-Up: Barbecue report looks at barbecue from multiple angles, inclusive of its use as both a preparation method and flavor.

“Barbecue is increasingly prevalent on menus,” says Technomic Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. “More than half of all operators we track (57 percent) menu at least one dish with barbecue sauce. Whether it’s introduced in the preparation or as a flavor, barbecue is very versatile and, more importantly, very different depending on regionality.”

In the new Category Close-Up: Barbecue report, Technomic delves into its MenuMonitor online menu-tracking resource and finds that more than 63 percent of the Top 500 restaurant chains offer barbecue as a flavor, ingredient or preparation style.¬† Technomic’s Digital Resource Library (DRL) provides chain information, which includes 20 in-depth chain profiles, covering the 10 largest barbecue chains as well as 10 regional chains to watch.¬† All of the consumer data in this report was analyzed from two sources: Technomic’s Consumer Restaurant Brand metrics program and Consumer Trend Reports.

Of particular note is the diverse array of methods used by operators to incorporate barbecue onto menus, and the opportunity that still remains for the category to grow:

  • Overall menu incidence of barbecue sauce is up over 5 percent in the past year.
  • A large majority of all barbecue sauce mentions don’t have a flavor associated with the sauce, indicating large opportunities for operators to offer more innovative barbecue sauce flavors.
  • Among sauces with a flavor associated with them, sweet/honey-style barbecue sauces are declining, while spicy/pepper varieties are gaining.
  • Smoked is the most commonly used barbecue preparation, and pork is the most commonly barbecued protein.
  • At barbecue concepts, coleslaw is the most commonly menued side dish, followed by French fries and baked beans.

Barbecue is a perennial consumer favorite when dining out.¬†Technomic’s latest Category Close-Up: Barbecue report features exclusive insights on regional barbecue styles and consumer preferences, in addition to an exhaustive menu analysis with related flavor, pricing and classification metrics.

To learn more about this report, please visit or contact one of the individuals listed below.

Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include numerous publications and digital products, as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry.