May 04

The State of Steak

So much has changed in food service in the past few years, in response to a whirlwind of challenges in supply chains, labor, and inflation, not to mention a global pandemic. Through it all, the demand for steaks on the menu and steakhouse experiences is keeping the segment hopping. We called up three chefs from Chicago, Toronto, and Miami to get their take on the state of the steak category – what do guests want, and where are the opportunities for operators?  

 First, a few data points to guide the way – a recent study from our mates at Menu Matters showed that steak is that one food that consumers just won’t compromise on. If inflation means making hard choices about what to order, that great steak remains non-negotiable.  

*Source: Menu Matters' 2024 Consumer Needs State report*

Despite already being one of the most-loved foods on the menu (84% love/like it!); steak’s popularity is still rising, up 3.1% on the “love” scale versus 2 years ago, according to Datassential.  

What are you seeing in demand for steaks and traffic in general at steak-centric restaurants?  

“Our traffic counts are really strong, showing that people are willing to pay for a great experience. The caveat is the high cost of great beef means guest expectations are higher too – to earn a return visit, you really have to deliver on hospitality, service, flavor and quality.” -Dan Huebschmann, Gibsons Restaurant Group 

“Toronto has become quite the steak town, with lots of hot new steakhouses doing well. It’s raised the bar for quality – you can’t get by with a subpar steak at any restaurant. MSA  grading is really helpful to make sure we’re serving great eating quality every time.” – Dan Craig, Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto refers to Australia’ 

What are people ordering? Any standout cuts or preparations?  

“No question Wagyu is the hot ticket right now. As an affordable luxury it has indulgent appeal, and it fits that need for guests to feel special. In terms of preparation, it’s all about grilling over charcoal or wood. Live fire brings so much flavor and atmosphere to the experience, it’s a big part of the appeal. Plus you can keep it simple and let the phenomenal Aussie beef shine!” -Aaron Brooks 

I’d agree about Wagyu, we see that in our data as well. We’re seeing a lot of interest in sharing – whether it’s a large format like a tomahawk or samplers of different types and cuts of steak, those items are really popular. Our Italian steakhouse concept has long had chef’s steak tastings served on wooden boards, and they do really well.” -DH 

Where are the opportunities for operators in the steak category right now?  

“I do see an appetite among guests to experiment and try something new. Underutilized cuts like hangar steak, flat iron and picanha/coulotte have value for operators and guests, and open up some new opportunities outside of filet and ribeye.” -AB

“Our guests are also getting more adventurous with their cuts. So yes to A5 Wagyu, but also skirt steak, flat irons, bavette, and even Denver steaks are more popular.  A top-quality grassfed option can do well, too.” -DC 


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