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Restaurant Chains are Heating Things Up

Let’s face it, Hispanic culture has gone mainstream. From the sports we play to the shows we watch to the music we listen to, the Latinization of America is more evident than ever. But for restaurant chains, specifically, the proof is in the pudding— or rather, the guacamole.

A recent study from IBISWorld shows that restaurant customers’ tastes are evolving. They’re looking for variety, fresh food options and more ethnic ingredients in their meals. This comes as no surprise as we’re living in a multicultural world, with Hispanics making up one in six of the U.S population. The flavors they crave are setting trends and taking over menus. For example, FastCasual.com reports that in the past two years, all-American chains have jumped on the hot and spicy bandwagon to add more Latin flavors to their meals— like Jack-in-the Box’s hella-peno burger and Carl’s Jr. jalapeno chicken fillet sandwich.

Here’s more of what we’ve learned about food trends:

  • A 2013 Voz Latinum Study showed that Hispanics are willing and wanting to turn up the heat in their foods. Jalapeño and chili, and hot sauce flavors like tabasco and tapatio, fall among the top five salty snack flavors Hispanics are willing to try.
  • Fresh fruits are also becoming increasingly popular. The same study shows that Hispanics of all ages mentioned passion fruit and guava, both native to South America, among their flavor preferences for beverages they’re willing to try. That’s why restaurant chains like Starbucks have added Latin fruit flavored drinks, such as the mango and passion fruit Frappuccino and passion tea lemonade, to their menus—maybe someday we’ll see a guava flavored smoothie among the mix.
  • The cultural component – knowing that they can get a taste of home in any restaurant – is also driving Hispanics to chains. According to Univision’s 2014 Casual Dining Landscape Study, conducted in partnership with Burke, 21% of Hispanics (vs. 5% of non-Hispanics) said they’d purchase meals from a restaurant because it has culturally relevant food items.

Hispanic inspired foods are increasingly being embraced by Americans everywhere. What used to be exotic Latino cuisine is now the norm. Restaurant brands should take this into consideration when planning menus and marketing messages that attract consumers en masse.

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