According to Horizons' latest Menu Watch survey, mac 'n' cheese, previously a staple for the home cook, has increasingly been taking its spot on restaurant menus over the last five years.
The pasta and cheese sauce-based dish has frequently popped up as a side order, main course, or as an addition to other dishes such as burgers or calzone on the menus of the 120 high street restaurant brands monitored for Menu Watch.
Prices charged at the restaurant groups, surveyed between October and December last year, range between £2.39 to £3.75 for a side order and £5.95 to £9.25 for a main course.
Horizons analyst Nicola Knight said the fact that the classic dish was relatively cheap to prepare and could easily be personalised and modernised meant it was popular with restaurant operators and consumers.
“It’s a huge success story for restaurants and pubs and shows that chefs have returned to some of our old favourites by giving them a new twist with modern ingredients,” she said.
“Macaroni cheese featured in Mrs Beeton’s Victorian cookery books but its reinvention in the US as mac ‘n cheese gave it a new life in the UK bringing the dish to an audience of younger diners. Operators love it because it’s cheap and quick and easy to produce, offering good margins and is easily revamped with the addition of other ingredients.”
Like macaroni cheese, coleslaw has undergone a similar makeover and re-emerged as ‘slaw made with ingredients such as bacon and cranberry, fennel & beet, or as chilli slaw, the survey found.
Horizons also identified a growing trend for potato hash dishes, found on 18 per cent more menus this year than last and served with ingredients such as duck confit, halloumi and chorizo and
Although beefburgers and pizza remain the most frequently listed dishes on menus and ribs remain popular (up 11 per cent year on year) the survey shows that restaurant operators are responding to consumer demand for more vegetarian dishes. The number of vegetarian dishes listed on menus has also risen since last winter, up to 27 per cent of menu items from 23 per cent last year.
Forty-five per cent of menus now also mention 'surperfoods' while the words 'allergy or allergen' increased 20 per cent year-on-year.