Restaurants are hoping to draw diners with peace of mind. As consumers take greater interest in a wide range of issues, from health and allergens to ethical agriculture and food safety, eateries are responding with a boost in menu claims that reflect those trends.

By Anneliese Klainbaum

Offering specific information on the menu provides a level of transparency and helps build trust, says Julia Gallo-Torres, Mintel’s category manager for U.S. foodservice. She adds that the extra level of information ultimately provides an opportunity to connect with the consumer. Check out key trends in the infographic below.

According to information collected from more than 2,500 menus by Mintel Menu Insights, claims related to nutrition, allergens, and geographic origin/style are up. While organic remains the leading ethical claim on restaurant menus, it’s experiencing a downturn, with usage declining 28 percent during Q4 2010–2013.

"The reality is that organic foods are quite expensive and consumers are looking for alternative claims to help them determine what other types of menu items are safe and of good quality to eat,” Gallo-Torres explains. “Tying into this, we are seeing a return to tried-and-true, traditional preparations, signaled by claims tied to classic, original, homemade, et cetera."

Mintel Menu Insights found foods indicating a homemade quality gaining in appeal. Made from scratch has contributed to 10 percent of all restaurant menu claims, while related claims such as original recipe, freshly picked, and farm-style are also growing. “Signature” ingredient claims have increased 34 percent, signaling interest in unique, chef-driven offerings.

The “journey of food” is top of mind for consumers, says Gallo-Torres, with preparation style, sourcing information, and authenticity becoming more prominent on restaurant menus. Indian-style, California-style, Veracruz-style, and New Orleans–style are just a few location callouts she’s seeing more frequently on menus. Geographic claims like these have seen a 12 percent increase from Q4 2010 to 2013.

Listing an ingredient’s specifications has become a way for restaurants to communicate value, particularly for the beef and pork sector, where details can convey a higher-quality product. USDA Prime, Kobe beef, Berkshire pork, and Black Forest ham are among the claims becoming more common on menus.

In addition to geographic claims, the biggest growth in menu claims came from nutritional claims. This category spotlights healthful menu options and can guide customers following a restricted diet for allergy or health reasons. Nutritional claims tied to specific ingredient claims rose 14 percent overall, while gluten-free claims posted a 200 percent increase. Egg-free, milk-free, anti-additive, and protein claims are seeing growth, as well. “Leaning toward health, there is also a surge in vegetarian and vegan foods,” says Gallo-Torres.

People are seeking more information from restaurants, including where their food is coming from, Gallo-Torres says. That attitude is expected to stick around too. “Consumers will continue to look to menus for guidance on what to eat," she says.

Menu Trends Infographic