CHICAGO – Despite an overall industry-wide contraction of 3.2%, limited-service Mexican-restaurant chains increased sales by 2.7% and unit counts by 1.8% in 2009. Within the Top 500, several Mexican chains achieved double-digit sales increases and the number of Mexican menu items on restaurant menus is up from 2009 to 2010, according to Technomic’s new Market Intelligence Report: Mexican study.

"The rise in popularity of Mexican food is the culmination of a number of factors all converging in foodservice at this moment," said Mary Chapman, director of product innovation. "The fast-casual boom is certainly part of the equation – Mexican concepts fit well into the fast casual model. Consumers are also calling for authentic ethnic dining experiences and spicier, more flavorful foods, so Mexican concepts and menu items are on trend in a number of ways right now."

Technomic’s study offers restaurant operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry insights into growth opportunities and consumer preferences with regard to Mexican food.

Highlights include:

  • The number of Mexican entrées on US restaurant menus was up 3.3% from the first half of 2009 to the first half of 2010, with 5.4% more restaurant chains offering Mexican menu items over that time period.
  • While chicken and beef are still the most-prevalent ingredients in tacos, the number of fish tacos on restaurant menus was up 22.5% from the first half of 2009 to the first half of 2010.
  • Consumers have started to respond to regional preparations of Mexican items, much like Tuscan or Sicilian within the Italian category or Cantonese and Sichuan varieties of Chinese food.