Creating Craveable Plant-Based Options

Plant-based is no longer a niche in the industry – it’s a dominating sector that has seen exponential growth over a short time and is becoming its own menu category. Whether it’s a concern for animal welfare, health, or the environment, consumers have various reasons to shift to plant-based fare. However, making plant-based dishes that are “good for you” or “good for the environment” isn’t enough; to meet customer expectations and create repeat business, your offerings must be plant-forward and craveable, leaving customers with an intense desire for more. When executing plant-based offerings, implementing the following strategies can help your restaurant serve phenomenal veg-centric items that deliver the same next-level flavors, textures, and crave-worthy elements as their animal-based counterparts.

Thoughtful Execution, High Impact

The goal of serving plant-based options isn’t just to please vegans and vegetarians; it’s to deliver more-than-satisfying meals to any customer. Flexitarians (semi-vegetarian consumers who are reducing animal consumption and increasing fruit and veggie intake) comprise a significant percentage of the population, and food familiarity is critical for this emergent group. To create crave-worthy plant-forward options, think of the best sellers on your menu. Pinpoint the qualities that make those offerings popular, and mimic the preparation techniques and distinct flavor combinations that differentiate them –with plant-based ingredients in the forefront.

Put plants in the spotlight by emphasizing the natural qualities of fruits and vegetables and pair with protein-rich, fulfilling ingredients. Add value with healthy megatrends like ancient grains, superfoods, and vegetable proteins. Take top-trending vegetables or a pre-prepped vegetable such as Fresh Cut Brussel Chips (#006649), and elevate them with flavor layering; Brussels can be Dijon-braised, balsamic-roasted, or cherry-glazed to create a sophisticated flavor that evolves and deepens with every bite. Roasting Brussel Chips creates a crisp texture that makes for an excellent starter item or addition to salads and pastas. Beets (#047061) are another trending, versatile vegetable that give menus plant-based pizzazz, whether they’re presented as noodles, chips, or fries, or incorporated into salads, smoothies, burgers, or pizza crusts.

According to Technomic Inc., 50% of operators are embracing plant-based trends when developing new menu items. Combine different consumer purchasing motivations, such as health-forward and comfort food, in one item to maximize on plant-based profits. Avocados, projected to be on over 50% of menus by 2021, may attract diners seeking the functional benefits of this popular superfood. When given a breaded coating, this ingredient can also attract a category of customers looking to indulge in comfort food. Rich’s® Breaded Avocado Slices (#046576) offer a high-value superfood in a mouthwatering format that makes for a craveable bar snack or an ingredient in tacos, burgers, salads, and nachos. Desirable plant-based offerings also aren’t limited to the food menu – consider serving health-forward, plant-based beverages like V8 +Hydrate® (#046545, #046546). Use this on-trend drink to create a signature plant-based cocktail or mocktail, or serve as a grab-and-go feature to round out a next-level plant-based experience.

Plant-Based Around the Globe

From Japanese rice bowls and Mediterranean falafel to Indian-inspired vegetable tikka masala, several ethnic cuisines are already largely plant-focused, making it easier to incorporate multiple trending concepts onto your menu. According to Datassential, 31% of consumers want to eat more plant-based foods because they want to try something new, and internationally inspired cuisine provides the opportunity to experiment with new cooking styles, adventurous flavors, and distinctive ingredients that will capture customer interest. Add variety and value to veg-centric offerings with signature versions of global specialties like Korean kimchi nachos, chickpea cutlet Parmesan, or Portobello tinga tacos.

Mimic Meat

Creating veg-centric versions of popular meat items is a trending strategy to attract flexitarians, veg-focused, and carnivorous customers while showcasing culinary creativity and building your plant-based repertoire. Th ink of typical meat offerings with familiar platforms like wings, nachos, sliders, pot stickers, and “meat” balls and reinvent them with cost-effective, versatile vegetables. Give bacon a plant-based spin by using shiitake mushrooms, eggplant, carrots, or beets as the base for smoky seasonings. Or, give plant-based makeovers to items like a Reuben featuring seitan “corned beef,” a beet “pastrami” sandwich, a bagel topped with smoked carrot “lox,” jackfruit pulled “pork” tacos, and roasted cauliflower “steak.” These items are intriguing in their meat format, but when given the beneficial qualities and fresh essence of plant-based offerings, listed on the menu with an enticing description, and executed with creativity and top-notch flavors, customers will be tempted to get a taste.

Menus lacking plant-based diversity and craveability are likely to be passed up for more veg-friendly competitors. Developing cutting-edge plant-based plates that offer familiar formats and keep flavor at the forefront is crucial to keeping your menu on-trend and profitable, meeting the high expectations for plant-based alternatives, and satisfying customers of all eating styles.