CHICAGO – Today’s US diners are more familiar with Asian cuisine than ever before because Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian and regional varieties of Chinese cuisines have become commonplace on menus throughout the country. But as popular as Asian cuisines are, Asian concepts still occupy a relatively small share of the Top 500 restaurant chains in the US, leaving room for chain operators to grow their market share, according to Technomic.

“Looking at sales and unit numbers, we see that established Asian concepts have been able to grow, while newer Asian concepts have also been emerging. Both limited- and full-service Asian concepts within the Top 500 were even able to grow sales and unit counts through a sluggish economy, signaling strong opportunities for chains within this underrepresented segment,” said Mary Chapman, director at Technomic.

Chipotle’s new Asian fast-casual concept is an indication of things to come in the segment, Chapman points out. She also feels traditional varied menu chain operators can benefit from consumer familiarity with Asian cuisines by adding new appetizers and entrées to their menus.

Technomic has developed the Market Intelligence Report: Asian to help restaurant operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry understand where growth opportunities exist in Asian cuisine.

Some study findings include:

  • Among the Top 250 restaurant chains, there were 19 percent more Asian items on menus in the second half of 2010 compared with the same time period one year earlier.
  • Between 2008 and 2010, the number of consumers who said they would be very likely to order a Chinese-style beef dish at a restaurant increased from 30 to 46 percent.
  • Fifty-eight percent of surveyed consumers have tried and liked Asian sauces (teriyaki, soy, sweet and sour, Szechuan). These sauces were second only to barbecue in the number of consumers who said they had tried and liked an Asian sauce with a pork dish.