This article was published on Axios 4/15/23. It has been edited to fit this format.
The go-to favorite cuisine of Americans used to be Italian, but increasingly it’s Latin American and Tex-Mex food like tacos, quesadillas and birrias…
Why It Matters
The dramatic rise in the U.S. Latino population is reshaping the national palate – and sending restaurant operations south of the border (or thereabouts) to freshen up their menus.
Driving The News
An analysis of the 4,500 new menu items released at major restaurant chains last year found that Americans are craving cheesy, spicy foods with Latin-inspired ingredients and preparations.
The 10 fastest-growing items on U.S. menus include birria (a Mexican meat stew), chicken taco salad, and dishes made with Tajin, a seasoning of chile peppers, lime, and sea salt.
…”When we work with [restaurant] clients, if they’re going to ask about what flavors to put on the menu, it’s probably going to be Latin,” says Mike Kostyo, the “trendologist” at Datassential who analyzed 2022’s menus.
For the longest time, Italian food was America’s favorite…not anymore!
- First came Millennials “the first generation to actually prefer Mexican cuisine over Italian cuisine,” Kostyo says.
- Now comes Gen Z, “the first generation to prefer both Mexican and Chinese cuisine over Italian cuisine.”
“Previously, you had spaghetti or pizza on the menu as go-to comfort food. Now you’re probably going to put a taco on the menu,” Kostyo tells Axios.
Demographic changes – which translate to shifts in childhood favorites and adult preferences – are reflected in our evolving appetites. “Look at college campuses today,” Kostyo says. In the food court, “…there’s probably going to be a taco and a burrito. The things that young people are growing up with as the norm are so different from 20-30 years ago…”
The Bottom Line
The Latin and Tex-Mex food boom is everywhere you look — and, given that such dishes produce high profit margins for restaurants, [they are] very likely to stick around.
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