Beef has overtaken chicken as the top protein for out of home dinners, the latest MCA insight has shown.

MCA’s Menu & Food Trends 2017 report has shown that in Q1 2017 25.9% of out of home dinners involved a beef main – up 1.3 percentage points (pp) on the same period in 2016.

Chicken, meanwhile, has seen the most substantial decline of any of the protein groups – with a year-on-year decline of 2.1pp to account for a 23.8% share of total out of home dinners.

Vegetarian is the only cuisine, other than beef, to have grown its share of total dinner visits this year, with popularity waning for fish/seafood, lamb and pork.

The report also shows beef burgers replacing curry as the top dinner dish – growing incidence by 0.8pp to 10.6% of all dinner visits. Growth in beef burgers has been due to gains in popularity amongst over-35s and women, with a strong increase in fast food outlets, and to a lesser extent in chains and independent restaurants, despite falling levels in pubs.

Meanwhile, the share of dinner visits involving chicken, beef, lamb and vegetarian curries has decreased, with curry incidence as a whole dropping from 10.3% to 8%. The decline has been most significant in independent restaurants, where curry’s share of dinner visits dropped 6.3pp to 19%, but levels have decreased across all key channels. The report also shows Italian cuisine under pressure, as both pizza and pasta incidence has fallen for out of home dinner occasions since 2016, with pizza particularly losing popularity amongst 18-34s.

The analysis reveals that the average number of courses eaten for out of home dinners has fallen 2% to 1.58 over the past year, driven by a decrease in starter-main combinations and full three-course meals. The share of dinner visits only involving a main course has grown, while there has also been a slight increase in the proportion of starter-only visits. The share of main-dessert combinations has stayed relatively stable, with desserts especially popular amongst women and on social, special and treat missions.

The results highlight a particular opportunity with starters in pub restaurants, where there is an under-index in starter-main combinations and three-course meals compared to the wider restaurant market, with only 24% of pub dinners involving a starter, compared to 34% in the total market.

The report also includes a detailed breakdown of views from leading industry figures, as well as analysing menu pricing and composition trends, consumer insight and concepts to watch.

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