NOW TRENDING: TURKEY!

Today's consumers are choosing lighter, fresher options and experimenting with bold flavors and ethnic cuisines—which is perfect for turkey, the nutritious and versatile protein that absorbs flavors like paint on canvas. So think way beyond the mashed potatoes and gravy dishes of the past, and attract today's health-conscious and adventurous consumers with fresh, unexpected signature dishes featuring turkey – serve it with garlic aoli, citrus marinades, spicy rubs and ethnic BBQs, fresh veggies, ancient grains, or even rice bowls.

According to Technomic’s 2015 Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report, diners are increasingly looking for healthy alternatives, and 61 percent agree that turkey is healthier than other protein alternatives. What’s more, consumers are comfortable ordering turkey-based versions of familiar favorites (think turkey burgers, or turkey bacon) since they tend to be familiar with these products.

Chances are, you can easily integrate turkey into your favorite recipes, and the result will be a delicious new dish that sets your menu apart and gives customers another reason to keep coming back. From turkey cutlets to wings and tenderloins to thighs simply swapping in turkey can satisfy your customers’ appetite for healthfulness and variety and increase profits.

6 Trends for Fast Casual Success

Feature a Healthy Alternatives menu.
A Healthy Alternatives menu section makes it easy for customers to find options that satisfy their craving for food that's good—and good for them. It’s also the perfect place to feature your own turkey version of popular burgers, sandwiches, stir-fry, tacos and lasagna. Include a nutrition analysis with each of your healthful turkey dishes as an added bonus - recipe analysis is relatively inexpensive, and your local American Dietetic Association can help. Take advantage of current labeling claims where appropriate, noting which dishes feature lean or extra-lean turkey products as well as those that are low in fat, sodium or cholesterol.

Swap-in turkey for healthy protein diversity.
It’s relatively easy for food service professionals to add dishes that fit into the “pattern language” of the restaurant—that is, with how things are already done. Even chicken-concept restaurants are looking for lighter offerings and new proteins to add variety to their menu and distinguish themselves. Turkey can add protein diversity—and tastes great any way you choose to prepare it—without burdening kitchen staff with a lot of additional learning or added equipment costs.

Appetizers, sharables and small plates are hot—and a great way to test new turkey dishes.
Appetizers and small plates, soups and salads are all growing categories and menu parts, and customers tend to be more willing to try new flavors via small plates at a lower price point. Creating appetizers and small plate options that feature a modern-take on turkey is a low-risk way to trial dishes and appeal to adventurous diners.

Diners are mad for Mexican.
The Mexican food sector has the best store-level sales gains of the top chains. Although chicken, pork and beef traditionally rule Mexican menus, turkey is a great way to differentiate—and it makes an easy, delicious and healthy substitute. Incorporating modern takes on turkey tacos, fajitas and burritos is a great way to give customers more of what they already want.

Mediterranean and healthy concepts are a perfect fit.
Mediterranean and healthy concepts are among the fastest growing restaurant categories. Even if this is not your feature cuisine, adding choices like these is a smart move. Turkey’s health halo makes it a natural fit for these good-for-you dining options.

Even pizza can benefit from turkey’s health halo.
Pizza is a perennial favorite. Offering toppings like turkey sausage, ground turkey or turkey pepperoni can help customers feel better about indulging. Or consider modern options, like thin crust turkey and avocado pizza, or a white turkey pesto pie.