How Restaurants Can Make 2021 the Year of Produce

It is official, the UN has declared 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.  With the produce industry, we’ve been seeing consumer interest move towards more vegetable centric diets and nutritious eating.  With this declaration from the UN, restaurants have a great opportunity to work this campaign into their brand strategy from items on the menu to messaging that promotes more vegetable offerings.  How exactly can restaurants do this?  Having worked specifically with assisting regional and national chains in sourcing fresh produce, our team has some insights to get you started.

Menu Ideation and Development

One of the first things that come to mind when thinking about a restaurant is its menu.  This is a critical aspect for a restaurant brand which can draw people to your establishment.  One of the services that our group and other produce providers bring to restaurants is help with menu ideation; developing specific ingredient-based ideas.  Looking to a supplier for ideas is a great advantage as they understand the item, shelf life, limitations, uses, and the item’s supply chain.  Also, after a year of pandemic with restaurants cutting back on staff, stream-lining ingredients, and the consumer looking to their well-known favorites for comfort, there is a re-engagement of creativity with restaurant menus.

Marketing Produce

Showing Off Produce with Visuals

Produce brings an array of color and texture to any visual that is produced for a restaurant.  This can be used strategically to bring more color to signage, menu boards, and other media by using red cabbage instead of green or making sure there is a mix of dark leafy greens to the light coloration of iceberg in a lettuce mix.  There are also specialty produce items on the market that have variations of color like rainbow chard, carrots, or the most recent pink pineapple.  Considering the visual aspects of a menu and how they will photograph is an important consideration in a restaurant’s marketing strategy.

Sharing the Nutritional Value of Produce

Produce is the one food groups we know is nutritious.  Many turn to a food as medicine approach with their diets and so knowing and conveying these nutritional benefits may attract health-conscious consumers.  Nutritional information panels give us insight into the calorie, fiber, fat, and carbohydrate composition, but further research can reveal how the vitamin and fiber density of produce improves health in specific ways. This important narrative can be added to a restaurant’s marketing message to not only attract health-minded patrons, but to remind everyone about the importance of a produce-rich diet.

Sweetgreen’s Co-Founder and CEO, Jonathan Neman, spoke on the food is medicine idea for restaurants and issued a call to action on LinkedIn for fellow restaurateurs.

“Over 70 percent of US adults are overweight, over 40 percent are obese. These numbers are going up every year.  And then we wonder why COVID is killing more Americans than anywhere else. Food is medicine yet as a country we refuse to accept this.nTime for us to listen to the science and eat more real food.  The government is not going to help guide us, so it is on us, companies like sweetgreen, and the consumer to change our culture.”

Telling the Produce Stories

Another great story with produce is the farmer and our connection to the ground with our food.  Many are multi-generational farming families, passing on the agricultural knowledge from generation to generation.  In produce growing regions, there are endless acres of fields that can be captured with camera showing exactly where fresh produce comes from.  Agriculture is also a science with many considerations for food safety, harvest, and processing that most people are not aware.

For the past five years we have been helping restaurants understand and sharing these stories to their teams. When these stories are passed on to the consumer, they show a restaurant’s interest and knowledge of their sourcing and consideration of each ingredient.

Partnering with the Produce Industry

Our team believes in the advantage of partnering with the right people to grow and enhance business.  It is why we love to share our insights into the produce industry and love even more to work with restaurants on building their business through produce.  But with any produce specialist you work with, there are a few things to look for and understand.  Are you hearing buzz words and industry terms that need to be translated, or are you being given an actionable plan in plain English?  Does your produce provider have a proven track record with other restaurants and can tell you how their plans have helped other customers?  Last, does the produce provider call or email you back quickly and cheerfully?  As with any partnerships, these things create an impression that will reassure or cause you wonder if they can and will look out for you and grow your business.

Produce has always been a great industry to work in with its agricultural ties, colorful items, and nutritional value that people look to for their health and wellbeing.  Let’s all work together to make 2021 a year where we enjoy more fruits and vegetables in our menu, marketing, and partnerships to nurture more health-filled lives and businesses in the new year.