Plant-based foods continue to make their mark on both the restaurant menu and the corporate boardroom. This has been especially evident at the quick-service and fast-casual restaurant brands that have best weathered the challenges of the pandemic – and will likely have an amplified presence in the industry as we emerge from it. Burger King recently pledged that half of its menu would be plant-based within nine years, a number of national brands have begun offering new plant-based breakfast sandwiches, and at brands including Chipotle, executive compensation is now tied to success in achieving companywide environmental sustainability goals, among other social responsibility measures. In the months and years ahead, customers will come to expect more plant-forward menu options and environment-forward company policies. Is your operation on course to provide those things? If there is room for improvement, start by fine-tuning your environmental policy so it includes specific, measurable and achievable environmental goals related to your team, customers, suppliers and the public overall. It should include details about how you monitor and reduce waste and emissions related to your food supply, how you plan to comply with environmental legislation and train staff to support it, and how you will manage, improve and hold people accountable for your ongoing environmental performance. Bringing more plant-forward options onto the menu naturally feeds into these goals. Look beyond salads and identify creative ways to enhance your entrée menu with filling plant-based or plant-forward burgers, pasta dishes and sandwiches you can offer right alongside your meatier options.
Go with the grain
As consumers take more steps to protect their health, they’re likely incorporating more whole grains into their diets. The protein, fiber, B vitamins and other nutrients in whole grains can promote weight loss and reduce the risk of diseases. Whole grains also make for a more satisfying dish. In your menu options, skew towards including whole grain ingredients such as brown rice, bulgur and whole grain pasta in your salads, soups and entrées – or at least offering them as a substitute for refined starches.
In dishes ranging from pizza to salads to burgers, eggs are elevating restaurant menus in new ways. They’re powerhouse ingredients that shine because of the diverse ways they can be prepared and experienced. Eggs also ride the line between health food and comfort food, so consumers are craving them right now, whether as the centerpiece of a Shakshuka or as a condiment in an amped-up burger. Where can you add an egg?
For food lovers, warming weather means outdoor food festivals, street fairs and more opportunities to consume a wide variety of street food from around the world. Even if these occasions are put on hold yet again this year, you can still offer comforting, craveable, street food-inspired options to go. From enchiladas to samosas, and pierogis to paella, there are hundreds of possibilities that can showcase your creativity – and can be made vegetarian and vegan too.
At a time when restaurant operators are trying to simplify their menus, every ingredient in a restaurant kitchen’s inventory needs to work hard. Chicken is one such workhorse because it enhances options in just about every section of your menu. At the same time, the experience of eating chicken in different dishes is just about as varied as it gets, thanks to the wide range of ways it can be prepared and served. It’s a children’s menu staple that is just as foundational to your salad menu. Fry it and serve it with dipping sauces as a comforting appetizer, shred it into hearty soups or sandwiches, or roast it and serve it with steamed seasonal vegetables as a lighter option.
Your guests know they need to eat their vegetables. Still, for many of them, preparing vegetables in craveable, inventive ways at home can be a tedious challenge – particularly during the work week. Your restaurant can be a helpful go-to source at these times. Think about mixing up your salads with marinated, roasted vegetables, surprising spices, house-made dressings and unexpected combinations that make vegetables something your guests will come back for.