Menu innovation across the eating out sector has fallen over the past year, the latest analysis from MCA has shown.

Data from MCA’s Menu Tracker shows that across a sample of 31 brands, menu dishes flagged as ‘new’ fell from 135 in spring/summer 2017 to 85 in the same period this year. The fall in NPD has been particularly prevalent in starters and mains, down 27 and 12 dishes respectively.

At the same time, the retention rate for new products has also dipped – with three in three in five products which had been flagged as ‘new’ in 2017 having been removed from menus this year. This is a stark contrast to results seen previously, where almost 60% of new dishes in 2016 were kept on 2017 menus.

The analysis shows continuing low levels of participation of operators in NPD, with only 32% of brands surveyed flagging new dishes on menus. The Top 5 brands ranked by new products accounting for over 90% of dishes this year.

Beefeater leads in terms of new dishes flagged on 2018 menus with 31 dishes, driven by a large increase in the number of sides offered, including “Bone Marrow & Potato Rosti” and “Loaded Cheesy Beef Fries”. Restaurant brands, including ASK, Busaba Eathai and Zizzi, have not sustained the frequency of new dishes flagged in previous years on 2018 menus.

Vegan and vegetarian options are increasing across the spectrum of retailers with operators looking to respond to consumer demand for meat-free options. ASK has added a separate Vegan menu this year with new dishes, including “Vegan Penne Arrabiata” and “Vegan Spaghetti Lentil Ragu”. MCA expects more innovation in plant-based dishes in the coming year with meat-focused brands facing the challenge of diversifying from their core offer.

Chicken is featuring strongly in operators’ product development thinking, although chicken has seen a decline in share on menus, operators are now rethinking the nature of the chicken products they offer. New chicken items include Beefeater’s “Buttermilk Chicken Wings”, “Poulet Printanier” at Le Bistrot Pierre and “Chicken Lecca-Lecca” at ASK Italian. Seafood was a key area for NPD in 2017 with 36 dishes, however operators are now turning their focus to other protein groups.

To find out more about Menu Tracker, please contact MCA on 01293 610 343 or enquiries@mca-insight.com