You’re likely serving more flexitarians these days – or people who simply want to increase their intake of vegetables in interesting, satisfying ways. Plant-forward pasta dishes are a great alternative for these guests because they can pack a dish full of nutrients without feeling restrictive. They’re also easy to adapt and customize with whatever vegetables happen to be available and in season (or with chicken, seafood or sausage for those who want a little meat).
Eating more whole grains is an important step to improving health – they deliver fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein to our diets, all while offering an antioxidant boost. Since whole grains also make a dish more satisfying, they are an easy choice for consumers – they don’t feel like a sacrifice. If your guests are looking for ways to improve their health, help them customize an entrée with whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice or pasta made from whole grains.
Chances are you’re offering more plant-based options on your menu nowadays – whether due to supply challenges, escalating food costs, evolving guest preferences or some combination of the above. At a time when uncertainties abound, it’s helpful to be able to successfully steer guests toward the items you prefer to sell – and some new research has shown how simple changes to menu language can lead guests to choose plant-based dishes more frequently. World Resources Institute researched the reaction of 6,000 people in the U.S. to 10 menu descriptions. A number of them generated some dramatic results. For example, when guests read the text, “Each of us can make a positive difference for the planet. Swapping just one meat dish for a plant-based one saves greenhouse gas emissions that are equivalent to the energy used to charge your phone for two years. Your small change can make a big difference,” they chose a vegetarian dish 25 percent of the time. That’s more than double the rate of guests who were shown no message at all. Another phrase, “Ninety percent of Americans are making the change to eat less meat. Join this growing movement and choose plant-based dishes that have less impact on the climate and are kinder to the planet,” resulted in 22 percent of guests opting for a plant-based dish, again far higher than those shown no messaging. Related messages about the taste of the food and the need to protect the planet for future generations also led to more guests selecting vegetarian meals. How do you explain plant-based options on your menu? If you currently stick to plain labels – vegetarian lasagna, veggie burger, etc. – you may not be driving as much traffic to those items as you potentially could.
Is there a better foundational ingredient than pasta? At a time when operators need to make the most of their inventory, pasta is an especially valuable tool. It can add dimension to your salad menu, be upscaled with seafood, or add bulk to ingredients in a global dish. Yet it also shines alongside simple, fresh ingredients. Depending on the shapes used, it can make a dish feel more comforting, surprising or upmarket.
For a while, meal kits and semi-prepared meals offered by grocery stores and online foodservice businesses were considered offerings that could eat away at restaurant sales. But the pandemic has altered that perception, with more restaurants experimenting with new ways to prepare, package and sell high-quality meals that can be completed at home – and are likely a cut above what a person could pick up from their grocery store. This winter, offering variations on the meal kit could provide a reliable income stream for you when winter weather and illness makes it less appealing for people to dine out. According to research shared in a report from The Rail, 41 percent of guests would buy a make-at-home meal kit from their favorite restaurant. Further, 90 percent of meal kit users refer others to the service they subscribe to – so if you execute your kit well, your chances of gaining more business are good. Kits are also a powerful means of developing traction on social media: After all, if you make it possible for someone to prepare an eye-catching, restaurant-quality meal at home, that person is going to want to show off their perceived culinary skills to friends.
Your restaurant can provide a much-needed place for your guests to reconnect with friends and family this year. As you plan your menu, consider creating dishes that are presented in an easy-to-share form. Offering a dish designed to be shared with one or more table mates can help you entice guests to boost check totals with an added appetizer or dessert. Plus, offering a shareable item is an easier sell to guests looking to eat more mindfully in the new year.