South Dakota State University Extension recently conducted a needs assessment project focusing on non-chain South Dakota restaurants marketing beef products. The project was funded by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council.  The project’s goal was to learn more about beef consumption, beef sales, and training provided to waitstaff. Restaurants surveyed were asked to provide information regarding their menu choices, sales trends, and information about their customers.

The menu information obtained from this survey indicated that restaurants in South Dakota offer numerous choices of beef products on their menus. These choices included a ribeye steak, sirloin steak, prime rib, ground beef, filet mignon, beef tips, New York strip steak, chopped steak, bone in ribeye steak, T-bone steak, and the flat iron steak. The most common beef products offered in South Dakota restaurants were the ribeye steak, sirloin steak, prime rib, and ground beef, respectively. The most popular beef cuts sold by restaurants were the sirloin, prime rib, ribeye, and filet mignon. Interestingly, the survey showed only 10 percent of restaurants offer flat iron steaks on the menu which is less than anticipated as this cut has enjoyed tremendous success recently at chain restaurants and steak houses. The four most expensive cuts on restaurants menus were the filet mignon followed by prime rib, ribeye, and New York strip steaks. This would indicate that traditional steaks from the middle meats are still valued by consumers for their palatability attributes.

When restaurants were asked about the month of greatest sales results showed that 31% of the restaurants had their highest volume of steak sales in October, while 24% had their highest volume of steak sales in July, and 21% had their highest volume of steak sales in August. This is supported by seasonal and tourism events that increase sales identified by restaurants with hunting season as the 1st, summer vacation as the 2nd, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as the 3rd highest events influencing beef sales.

Restaurants provided some insight about their customers as they reported that Fridays were the day of greatest steak sales and their customers value flavor, price, and tenderness when selecting steaks. Customers most commonly request their steaks prepared to a medium or medium rare degree of doneness 63% and 37% of the time, respectively. When asked why their customers return to the restaurant high quality food, repeatability of the quality of food, and good customer service were identified as the primary factors by the restaurants. This would indicate that restaurants in South Dakota have a good working knowledge of beef selection and preparation and the service provided is valued by their customers.

Source: Keith Underwood with contributions from B. Lynn Gordon

Members of the SDSU Extension research team included Keith Underwood, meat scientist and B. Lynn Gordon and Heather Larson, extension field specialists.