With today’s food trends moving toward the direction of fresh, healthy, local, and sustainable, the term “plant-based” continues to enter the conversation on every playing field. Plant-based food businesses, events, and pop-ups are frequently entering the market and it has become exceedingly clear that this is not just a fad.
Often associated with the term “Vegan”, plant-based foods have evolved and now target all types of eaters: vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, and meat eaters. In recent years, plant-based foods have seen a rapid, upward trend due to a number of reasons, including increased interest in food sustainability, disruption caused by climate change, the need for healthier diets and concerns for animal welfare. As the world population nears 8 billion people, with projections pointing toward a continued increase, it is essential that we become better stewards of the planet’s resources because at this trajectory, the global animal protein food supply is unsustainable.
For this reason, the culinary, tourism and hospitality industries need to evolve and expand their brand by offering plant-based protein alternatives on menus. Though this may seem like a daunting task, especially for traditional restaurants like steakhouses and BBQ, menu diversification will allow you to reach more customers and entice more patrons to walk through your door. Here are five easy ways to diversify your brand through the integration of plant-based foods onto your menu:
Sub-Out Recipes to Include Plant-Based Offerings on Your Menu
Substituting proteins already offered with a plant-based alternative is an easy way to transform your restaurant brand and expand your consumer audience. Don’t overlook what your chef is already capable of creating. A simple switch in protein, if done correctly, is an easy and cost-efficient surrogate. Plant-based proteins should not be seen as a meat substitute but rather as an additional protein source offered – aside from meat, poultry or fish. With this perspective in place, the ways of integrating plant-based proteins into your menu become infinite.
Choose a Versatile Plant-Based Protein
The biggest complaint about many meat alternatives is their ability to be used in a variety of ways. Choose a plant-based protein that is capable of transforming into any meal desired. Whether you want to cook it, grill it, fry it or even turn it into sushi, the plant-based protein you use should be limited only by your chef's creativity and imagination.
There Should Be No Compromise on Taste or Texture
With the right choice in plant-based proteins, zero compromise on traditional texture or flavor profiles is necessary. Ingredients in certain dishes may need to be modified to support the plant-based alternative but ultimately the taste and texture should remain consistent. With invariable taste and texture, the kitchen will be able to remain creative in the dishes they piece together and there will be no need to overcompensate for use of a plant-based alternative.
Have a Staff That Is Knowledgeable of Plant-Based Products
If your staff is knowledgeable on sustainable diets and that of the plant-based product available, they can serve as excellent spokespeople for any and all menu additions. Effectively educating those (bartenders, wait staff, back of the house, etc.) unaware of the dietary, sustainability and environmental benefits of plant-based alternatives is a key component to selling this addition to customers. Having front of the house staff that is educated on plant-based alternatives and armed with key selling points, offer a unique opportunity to upsell the product and be successful in building on this concept.
Make it Obvious What Is Available
How will customers know that you are now offering plant-based products unless you make it obvious that you do? Not only will advertising the meat alternative and its ingredients draw in vegans and flexitarians, but it will also accommodate those with dietary restrictions, or allergies. You should ensure that this new diversified menu is visible not only in-person but online. If not, this lack of clarity may be a barrier in your business’s acquisition of new customers.
Not only will including plant-based protein offering attract a more diverse consumer audience but it has the potential to improve your business’ cost efficiency. We have been able to see margins maintained with restaurants who have the plant-based menu options versus animal protein and continue to offer more daily specials due to the cost impact.
Plant-based proteins are here to stay so by diversifying your brand offerings and integrating these tips into your daily performance, the potential for current and future growth is inevitable.