Adapting by Replacing: How Tweaking Proteins on Your Menu Could Boost Margins

October 2021

Adapting by Replacing: How Tweaking Proteins on Your Menu Could Boost Margins

As if hesitant customers and labor shortages weren’t enough for restaurant operators to be dealing with in the midst of a global pandemic, rising food costs and supply shortages are now presenting a real challenge. In June of 2021, the National Restaurant Association’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicated that food prices were up 9.6% since June 2020. Major commodities registering the highest price increases year-over-year include chicken, pork, seafood, eggs and flour.


It seems the price increases are largely due to short supply. As customers returned to restaurants this summer, they continued to make grocery runs. As a result, manufacturers have been struggling to scale production to meet the increased demand.


Commodities analyst John Barone notes manufacturers “can’t get the raw materials needed or the necessary labor…because of this, they’re struggling to meet demand with tight supplies and, in some cases, outright shortages.” Barrone specifies that chicken is in very short supply, adding that “breast meat supplies are coming back…but prices are still high.”


But the challenge of high-priced chicken could very well become an opportunity for operators who are willing to explore menu innovations. The below recipe swaps showcase five ways to use turkey in meals that traditionally call for chicken.

  • Swap Chicken Masala for Turkey Garam Masala, an enticing dish that features authentic Indian spices, habanero honey and roasted veggies.
  • Swap Chicken Noodle Soup for Turkey Sweet Potato and Noodle Soup, a warm and hearty light meal or side that nourishes with diced carrots, sweet potato chunks and tender turkey.
  • Swap Chicken and Waffles for the  Country Fried Turkey Waffler, a comforting breakfast or brunch rock star that opens eyes with honey-flavored candied turkey bacon and a Nashville hot honey syrup.

In addition to the exciting menu possibilities, there’s more encouraging news for those looking to tweak their menu with turkey. According to our proprietary Food Away From Home study, 63% of consumers say that turkey, as a lean, healthy protein, can be used in place of chicken breast.


In today’s incredibly challenging foodservice landscape, finding more guest traffic and quality job applicants can only be controlled so much. But how an operator navigates ingredient pricing and availability offers more opportunity for creative solutions and as a result, higher margins.


Have you adjusted your menu due to today’s supply issues? Share your thoughts on our Facebook or LinkedIn page. Or visit our Resource Center for more ideas around getting creative on your menu and beyond.



The Importance of Turkey in Food Away from Home, Butterball, 2019.

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