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Ethnic or exotic foods may be all the rage, and Heston’s “molecular gastronomy” might grab the headlines, but when it comes to dining out, we Brits are a fairly conservative bunch.

According to the latest Menurama survey from foodservice analyst Horizons, despite Britain’s restaurants, pubs, hotels and cafes offering diners a choice of innovative dishes, the nation’s most regularly-listed dishes remain surprisingly predicable; indicating that while customers like to try new dishes, many of them are happy ordering old favourites.

Perhaps more interesting and significant for foodservice operators, however, is the growing trends for punters wanting to know more about the food they’re eating. Caterers are beginning to respond, and are offering an increasing amount of information – on food provenance and local sourcing – on their menus.

This isn’t restricted to high-end establishments: Wayside Inns lists “Croxton Manor Cheddar amp; Ruddles Ale Tart”; Little Chef has a “rich steak and Abbot’s ale pie” on its menu, as well as “outdoor reared British pork sausage”, while one independent gastro pub lists a “Herefordshire snail, chicken and smoked bacon pie”.

Other notable trends include “posh” and artisan food – with “posh chicken kiev” on the menu at Ember Inns, and “beer amp; posh burger with chips” at Scream.

“Chains are becoming more innovative in terms of dishes and ingredients, partly to keep people interested, but also because consumers expect them as they now have more exposure to unusual foods through the supermarkets and TV cookery programmes,” says Horizons’ director of services Paul Backman.

However, although the research, which surveys the menus of 115 high street operators across the UK, reveals a growing number of new dishes on menus, the top 10 most commonly listed dishes remains largely unchanged, with burger, pizza, and good old fish ‘n’ chips once again filling the top three slots.

“While consumers like to think they will try something new when they eat out, often they opt for their old favourites, so the top 10 most commonly listed dishes don’t change much from year to year,” says Backman.

“However, the descriptions of them do – a burger, for instance, is more likely to be listed by weight and provenance (such as Aberdeen Angus) and fish and chips are often described as being from a sustainable source. Some 39% of establishments now also include calorie information on their menus or websites.”

BRITAIN’S FAVOURITE MAIN COURSES (ave price in brackets)

1. Beefburger (£8.72)
2. Pizza (whole)  (£10.07)
3. Fish amp; chips  (£8.69)
4. Chicken burger    (£7.53)
5. Rump steak    (£10.01)
6 Chicken curry (£8.93)
7 Sirloin steak             (£15.00)
8 Grilled chicken (£9.58)
9 Roast chicken            (£10.43)
10= Beef lasagna          (£7.58)
10= Sausage amp; mash     (£7.27)

Source: Horizons’ Menurama survey May 2012.

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