Latin American cuisine on the verge of US market domination

02 July 2018 3 min. read

Whilst Mexican food has long been a US staple, Latin American cuisine has found it a hard market to break into. However, just as we are seeing a rise of Asian dishes which were once suppressed by the prevalence of Chinese food, Americans are beginning to embrace the Latin kitchen according to Miami-based hospitality consultant Rene Prats.

Prats Consulting is a boutique consulting and investment firm based out of South Florida founded and headed by Rene Prats. The consulting firm offers a range of services including strategy design, advertising, media buying and M&A. Prats Consulting works across sectors but has a specific in depth knowledge of the restaurant and hospitality industries. The boutique firm was founded in 1990 and boasts clients including Papa John’s, Dog Hotels and Real Estate America. 

The consultancy has worked for nearly 30 years servicing the industry and has noticed a significant shift in the American food paradigm. Dishes as wide-ranging as Peruvian ceviche to empanadas from across the board are beginning to appear on more menus through the United States. And the focus on this includes both Latin fine-dining as well as a well-cultivated culture of street food. 

Prats says that in the same way that Asian noodle soups, the Vietnamese pho and Korea’s ramen, have broken into the mainstream in America’s culinary consciousness, Latin American food is on the cusp of doing the same. “It’s wide open. Chipotle taught America to eat rice and beans, and that leads to Cuban food. You have arepas from Venezuela that are gluten-free and can be stuffed with anything. And you can do so much with tostones (twice-fried green plantains).” 

According to Prat, as the majority of Latin foods are relatively unknown in the US, operators are which are attempting to introduce certain dishes should refer to their style as generically Latin – in the same manner that Asian and Mediterranean restaurants do – in order to help boost the popularity in general.

Latin American cuisine on the verge of US market domination

Whilst this may be true for the lesser known styles of those attempting to break through, Cuban cuisine among others has gathered enough of a following that it would stand out from the crowd. “People are not afraid of Cuban sandwiches, but the biggest factor is rice and beans, which is a staple of Cuban food,” Prat said.

Prats Consulting has recently worked with Miami locals Sergio’s Family Restaurants to expand their original offerings to include a new fast-casual dinner and coffee bar. Sergio’s is a renowned restaurant with locations spread throughout Florida who opened their new chain Sergio’s Cuban earlier this year with the help of Prat.

The business is thriving due to the recent focus in the US for healthier eatery options according to Prat. Cuban food, like a majority of Latino food has a number of healthier ingredients and options for those with specific dietary requirements than does traditional American cuisine. Some of the main ingredients which are already making an impact on the American market include quinoa, avocados, beans, sweet potatoes and purple corn as well as tropical fruits and exotic spices.

The prevalence of these ingredients, and more generally, Latin dishes, will only become more defined and accepted as American culture expands its horizons. Due to the prevalence of Latinos residing in the US and with healthy eating becoming more of a lifestyle choice than a fad – as some fast food chains may have hoped – Prat suggests that it is likely that this emerging market will begin to heat up.