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May 2024 Food Trends: 15% Increase In Seafood Sales

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Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

Restaurants are booked and busy for the season. How do we know? From April 1, 2024 to May 31, 2024, Toast analyzed month-over-month food sales to determine what food items are currently trending in the restaurant industry. We found some interesting insights when looking at May compared to April. 

This article breaks down May 2024 food trends for restaurants to use to assist in daily operations such as menu planning and inventory.1

At a glance in May 2024:

  • Seafood sales increased by 15%

  • Fajita sales increased by 14%

  • Dessert sales increased by 13% 

  • Pasta sales increased by 12%

  • BBQ sales increased by 12%

  • Enchilada sales increased by 12%

  • Steak sales increased by 12%

  • Quesadilla sales increased by 11%

  • Nacho sales increased by 11%

  • Cheese sales increased by 11%

  • Chicken tender sales increased by 11%

Let’s break these insights down.

May Month-Over-Month Food Trends

Time moves fast, and you might be asking yourself, what happened in May? Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Here’s a general recap of dates and events that happened in May (in case you forgot).

  • Guests enjoyed plenty of margaritas and Mexican cuisine on Cinco De Mayo (May 5)

  • Memorial Day Weekend 2024 kicked off the busy season for many restaurants 

  • The Kentucky Derby took place on May 4, 2024

  • Mother’s Day was celebrated on May 12, 2024

  • Fans watched the playoffs for both the NBA and NHL

Let’s take a look at how these dates impacted dining trends in May 2024.  

Trend 1: Guests celebrated Cinco De Mayo 

May witnessed a significant surge in Mexican cuisine’s popularity, which was likely driven in part by the festive occasion of Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the United States to honor Mexico's victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Naturally, Americans honor this historical event with giant margaritas and apparently, lots of fajitas. Fajita sales increased by 14%, enchilada by 12%, and quesadillas by 11% in May 2024 compared to April 2024. 

Restaurants across the nation capitalized on this trend, offering specialized menus and promotions for the holiday. Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina in New York City took the celebrations to new heights and extended the Cinco de Mayo festivities to a 12-day event! This expanded celebration allowed guests plenty of time to savor their favorite Mexican dishes. 

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Trend 2: Diners embraced seasonal flavors for Memorial Day Weekend

As the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day Weekend kicked off a busy season for many restaurants across the nation. Restaurant operators are starting to pull out their seasonal offerings, from short ribs to crab cakes. Our Toast data revealed a notable shift in summer food sales as seafood sales increased by 15% and BBQ sales increased by 12% compared to April.

Among the establishments that capitalized on this seasonal shift was The Barking Crab in Boston, Massachusetts. This iconic summer spot showed off some of its lobster offerings to both kick off and close out the long weekend. We have to hand it to them, these pictures have us craving lobster rolls now, too! 

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As summer progresses, restaurant operators should take advantage of this heightened demand for seasonal favorites. 

Trend 3: Diners celebrated Mom

Mother’s Day is notorious for being a busy day for restaurants. In fact, same-store GMV (Gross Merchandise Volume) at full-service restaurants on Mother's Day 2023 was 51% higher than the average Sunday in 2023.2 The average amount of money people spent at restaurants was also 32% higher on Mother's Day compared to a regular Sunday. This could mean that either more people went out to eat for Mother's Day, they ordered more items, or they ordered pricier food and drinks.

This year, we saw that trend continue in May 2024. Compared to April, dessert sales were up by 13%, pasta sales increased by 12%, and steak sales also rose by 12%. It seems people wanted to treat their moms to something really special and delicious, like a fancy steak dinner followed by a sweet dessert.

The Doughnut Plant in New York City got creative for Mother's Day. They made beautiful specialty doughnuts that looked like flowers. Instead of just getting Mom a basic dessert, people could buy her an artistic "doughflower" to show her how much they appreciate her.

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Restaurant operators know that Mother's Day is an important day to go all out and offer their best dishes and desserts. People are willing to spend more to make their moms feel extra loved and celebrated, and our data reflects this.

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Trend 4: The sports were sport-ing

Fans continued to watch the playoffs for both the NBA and the NHL. These action-packed tournaments likely added to the increase in fan-food favorites such as the 11% increase in both nacho sales and chicken tender sales compared to April. These bar bites’ popularity is anticipated to continue into June as both the NBA and NHL have their final games scheduled. After these finals are over, Americans can go back to watching baseball all summer so we’ll definitely be monitoring hot dog sales. Stay tuned!

Sports bars like The Harp in Foxborough, MA offered special giveaways like this Bruins watch party giveaway to keep guests engaged. 

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If you’re a horse lover or even just a big betting fan, you may have watched The Kentucky Derby, which took place on May 4, 2024. According to Yahoo Sports, this year it took several minutes to sort out an official winner, with Mystik Dan, Forever Young, and Sierra Leone crossing the finish line just fractions apart. However, Mystik Dan came out on top as the 2024 Kentucky Derby winner. The quick race averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 16.7 million viewers — marking the largest Kentucky Derby audience since 1989 (18.5 million viewers on ABC, won by Sunday Silence). Many bars and restaurants contributed to this heavy view count and offered specials, like Lincoln Tavern’s (Boston, MA)  three tasty drink specials below.

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Restaurant operators who choose to plan ahead of events like the Kentucky Derby can draw in an audience and capitalize on it. Consider planning your Father’s Day specials ahead of time this year as well. For more information, check this article on Father’s Day Data Insights

What else is happening?

So that was May 2024 in a nutshell, but what else is happening in the industry? Check out these related resources below to stay up to date with the industry:

And we’ll see you next month for June month-over-month data!

Methodology

1Toast analyzed transactions on the Toast platform from April 1, 2024, to May 31, 2024, to determine the popularity of dishes labeled “salads, bowls, nachos, tacos, burgers, chicken tenders, roast chicken, fries, quesadillas, sandwiches/wraps, sushi, BBQ, burritos, desserts, enchiladas, pizza, cheese, omelette, pasta, wings, rice, steaks, pies, seafood, sauces/dips, dumplings, curry, ramen/noodles, soups/stews and vegan/vegetarian.” Toast then compared the average volume for the month of April 2024 to the average volume for May 2024. Results shown are the top ten movers for the categories listed.

2Toast analyzed Sunday transactions from a cohort of full-service restaurants on the Toast platform from January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023. Toast used a cohort of same-store customers on the platform since Q4 2022. 

Benchmark Insights are not to be construed as recommendations or professional advice of any kind. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained in Benchmark Insights. Toast does not guarantee that you will achieve any specific results, and you should consult with your professional advisors for advice specific to your circumstances, including without limitation with respect to any purchasing decisions. Toast reserves the right at any time to add, delete or modify Benchmark Insights or any data contained therein.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.