How Restaurants Are Capitalizing on the Growing Veggie Movement
Veggies are all the rage for today’s restaurant consumers and the industry is listening. According to Technomic, a leading research and consulting firm specializing in the food industry, 67 percent of Americans say that a vegetarian meal can be just as satisfying as a non-veggie version, and in a one-year period between 2012 and 2013, vegetable choices on nationwide restaurant menus have increased by 22 percent.
Why? According to a recent USA Today article, the growing demand for veggies on restaurant menus can be largely credited to consumers’ overall demand for healthy and fresh menu choices. This includes the 80 million millennials with a combined spending power of $1.3 trillion annually whose social media identity is largely defined by what they eat, and where.
For an example of how vegetables are taking center stage on mainstream restaurant menus, look no further than LongHorn Steakhouse, which recently rolled out its butternut squash risotto as one of its signature side dishes or California Pizza Kitchen’s new Brussels + Bacon Pizza.
Here are among the biggest vegetable trends to look out for in 2014, and beyond.
Cauliflower: Culinary trendologist Christine Couvelier believes that cauliflower is the new kale. In a Metro News article, Cauliflower the new kale: Food trends predicted for 2014, she said, “Kale had that buzz and everybody loves kale chips and how many restaurants have we seen that have kale on the menu? But cauliflower is certainly the huge buzz this year.”
Vegetarian appetizers: Vegetarian starters and appetizers rank at the top of the National Restaurant Association’s list of the biggest appetizer trends in its “What’s Hot 2014 Culinary Forecast.” Vegetarian appetizers offer widespread appeal to a growing number of consumers seeking healthier food choices while dining out, for cholesterol, diabetes, weight control, etc.
Carrots: Statistically, according to Food Genius, carrots are found on 34 percent of unique menus, and 50 percent of the time mentioned in salads. However, given the carrot’s widespread popularity and availability, there are an abundance of opportunities to feature carrots on the menu. For instance, Troy Guard, the chef and owner of TAG in Denver, makes a carrot taco, consisting of a carrot tortilla and a filling of braised carrots, a salad of raw carrots and cilantro, and guacamole.
Vegetarian sauces and dips: An article on Restaurant.com, New Ingredients to Spice Up Your Restaurant Menu, reports that new dips will emerge in 2014, such as roasted eggplant dip and muhammara, a traditional Mediterranean dip made from hot and sweet red peppers, walnuts, pomegranate molasses and spices.
Collard greens: Look out kale, here come collard greens. Their ability to adapt to multiple cooking methods and their high levels of fiber and potassium, collards will enjoy a surge in popularity in 2014 (Source: Sun-Times Media, Predicting the hot food trends for 2014, by Melissa Elsmo)
Ethnic grains: Ethnic grains, a leading restaurant menu trend last year, continue to prevail in 2014. Ethnic grains are increasingly replacing traditional milled white flour, offering new flavors, textures and nutrition.
How does your restaurant creatively feature vegetables on your menu, and how are your customers responding to vegetarian choices? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line in the comment box below.