This post originally appeared on the Food Genius Blog, by Eli Rosenberg. Check out Food Genius for more restaurant and hospitality industry insights and learn more about the granular insights your menu has to offer. 

For many Americans, mac and cheese has been a diet staple since childhood. Now that we’re all grown up, macaroni and cheese trends in US restaurants reveal that we never grew out of craving a plate of perfectly al dente pasta smothered in ooey gooey cheese sauce.

Macaroni And Cheese On Restaurant Menus

Let’s use Food Genius’s menu analytics dashboard to see how macaroni and cheese is rendered on restaurant menus for diners in the US.

  • Mac and cheese appears on 12% on menus nationwide.
  • 65% of the unique menus serving macaroni and cheese are within the American cuisine category, distantly followed by “other” at 13% and Italian at 9%.
  • The average price of all mac and cheese dishes, regardless of menu section, across the US is $6.94, the most common price point is $4.00.

food genius data

More Data, Please

Here’s some additional Food Genius data related to mac and cheese.

One of macaroni and cheese’s best qualities is its versatility: it works equally well as a main course or as a side dish. Looking at Food Genius’s breakdown of all US menus offering macaroni and cheese, we see that it’s served as an entree most often — in 32% of instances. But it’s also popular as a side dish (31%) and less so, but still significantly, as an appetizer (11%). Kids love mac and cheese so, unsurprisingly, it’s available at 22% of all US restaurants with a kids’ menu.

Show Me The Money

NULLWhat does all of this have to do with price? Well, when we looked at Food Genius pricing data for macaroni and cheese trends, we found that when it’s served as an appetizer or side dish, average price dips down to $6.31. When mac and cheese is an entree, however, average price jumps up to $9.92. Kids’ menu dishes are much cheaper: the average price is just $4.95.

If you’re craving mac and cheese, which type of restaurant should you visit?

We already know that American cuisine is your best bet. A closer look at Food Genius menu analytics dashboard data for macaroni and cheese dishes in American restaurants reveals that it’s served most often (in 15% of instances) as an entree in Fast Casual spots — restaurants that typically price dishes between $7-12. You’ll also find it here as a side (13%) or kids’ menu (12%), so a family dining establishment is your best bet. 46% of total American menus offering mac and cheese fall into this specific segment.

Macaroni and cheese trends haven’t quite caught on in Fast Food joints, however. Only 12% are available at quick service places with menu items priced under $8. There’s a clear opportunity for Fast Food restaurants to capitalize on the hurried diner’s nostalgic fondness for a simple, hearty macaroni and cheese dish.

If you’re interested in learning how the Food Genius menu analytics dashboard can help you understand menu trends, pricing and market analytics for your next dish, request access today.