Pork is helping restaurants expand their menus, according to foodservice consultant Technomic. With a 7 percent increase in menu mentions over the past year, pork is now being showcased in appetizers, entrées and sides. The range runs from Chipotle’s pork carnitas to Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant’s new Iowa pork tenderloin medallions with a maple, mustard and pretzel crust.

The findings are part of Technomic’s examination of menu additions of leading independent and chain restaurants. “Restaurants are using pork more often in main dishes and as an accompanying ingredient in menu items for various reasons,” says Bernadette Noone, director, Technomic MenuMonitor. “First, the higher cost of beef has made pork a nice substitute in combo dishes. Where customers were once seeing chicken and beef on the menu, they may now see chicken and pork dishes.”

Pork had a 15 percent increase in shellfish dishes, 13 percent in chicken dishes and 8 percent in both beef dishes and burger dishes during the second quarter of 2011.

A review of recent pork dishes shows bacon, sausage and ham are the most common pork ingredients on menus. No surprise, bacon always leads. “For the last few years we’ve seen bacon-related menu items increase by over 7 percent annually,” she adds.

The pork trend crosses meal parts, with many types of pork being featured in new dishes. A sample of new pork items includes:

  • Country-style pork cutlet at Max & Erma’s
  • Mojo roast pork at Pollo Tropical
  • Red beans and rice with Andouille sausage at Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
  • Wood-grilled Chorizo sliders at Bahama Breeze
  • Memphis BBQ skins with pulled pork at Chili’s Grill & Bar.