CHICAGO – Despite national salt-reduction initiatives, salt mentions on major chain and independent restaurant menus have increased by 144 percent over the last five years. Not only have operators included salt on the menu with greater frequency, but the evolution of salt use across menu categories has shifted dramatically, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor analysis of over 2,000 top chains, emerging concepts and leading independent restaurants.

This increase may be because salt has many desirable properties and serves as an inexpensive way to enhance the flavor of food, making good food taste even better, Technomic relays. But adding these menu descriptors does not necessarily indicate a conflict with the restaurant industry’s efforts to lower the overall sodium content in food and the salt not included in menu descriptions has been consistently lessened in recent years, even as these artisanal uses of the spice have increased, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president.

“Salt and pepper has always been prevalent on the menu,” he added. “However, we are seeing more artisan, spice-blended and designer-finishing salts being introduced broadly across appetizers, entrées and dessert menus. Although the roots of this trend originate in fine-dining establishments, it’s catching on in mainstream casual dining, fast-casual and quick-service restaurant chains.”

Examples include:

  • Dragon Salt, a blend of salt, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger and Cajun spices is offered at Asian stir-fry chain Genghis Grill, as a seasoning for several featured bowls.
  • Salt and vinegar French fries appear on the menu at Old Chicago Restaurants while Wendy’s national roll out of Natural-Cut Sea Salt Fries occurred late last year.
  • O Ya, the haute Japanese fusion restaurant in Boston, pairs its Seared Petit Strip Loin with a 2 oz. Potato Confit with Sea Salt White Truffle Oil. Miso Braised Beef Marrow featuring Hawaiian black lava sea salt is offered at Tanuki Tavern Japanese gastropub in New York.
  • Ocean Prime offers a specialty martini called Sea Salt Caramel Martini featuring Belvedere Vodka, Navan Vanilla, Caramel and Black Lava Salt while SushiSamba’s Kimori cocktail is served with a Nori-salt rim.