Menu Trends: How to Prepare Plant-Based Proteins

During the past few years, meatless proteins have exploded in popularity. As we recently pointed out, the growth of this segment is expected to continue. Projections have indicated it could be worth as much as $120 billion by 2030.

For operators, it’s important to consider new menu trends that can make a restaurant or operation more attractive to a broader range of customers. Taking advantage of plant-based proteins can help. While there will always be a place for meat, today’s consumers expect dishes customized to their preferences. Offering alternatives to meat-based dishes is critical in the modern restaurant industry.

Sourcing a Plant-Based Menu

Because of the significant expansion of this market, numerous plant-based food manufacturers are expanding across the country. New names are entering the market every day, in addition to the ones most people know. Protein-rich ingredients come in many shapes and forms, with some of the top examples being broccoli, beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Plant-based protein sources can be woven into a menu in numerous ways. As long as restaurants and commercial foodservice operations get creative. Because so many companies provide plant-based protein today, chefs and operators should know what they are using and where it comes from.

“Sourcing products is everything these days,” says the Vice President of Research and Culinary Development at Crown Steam Group, Jason Hall. “Truth in labeling is important to focus on, as well, so you get exactly what you want. The most important thing is checking the company before you buy to make sure you are getting what you are after and that it is nutritionally beneficial.”

Because customers care about the origins of their foods, whether it’s plant-based or traditional, foodservice operators should also care. If operations demonstrate a commitment to quality and transparent sourcing of conventional meats and proteins, they should provide the same level of care to plant-based proteins. This leads to a broader marketing appeal that can help operations stay ahead of the competition.

Serving a Plant-Based Menu

Customer expectations have changed significantly during the past few years. And a big reason is a greater focus on healthier ingredients. To appeal to these trends, restaurants should consider highlighting plant-based foods on menus. Traditional vegetarian options like lentils or red pepper hummus are always appealing. But operators who go beyond the traditional and offer plant-based meat substitutes can gain an advantage. A few possible examples include an “Impossible” burger or a made-from-scratch black bean burger.

Many people assume that plant-based proteins might not be as flavorful as traditional meat proteins, but there are certainly ways to enhance flavors.

“Using creative sauces and spice blends are ways to really enhance plant-based proteins,” says Kyle Wilson, Chef de Cuisine for Middleby Innovation Kitchens. Including as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible into plant-based protein dishes give a variety of different flavors and textures that create a more cohesive dining experience.”

While many restaurant owners and operators believe plant-based protein is a single category, the reality is this encompasses a wide range of options. All of which can be combined with several other ingredients to present a unique dining experience. Ultimately, it is critical to spice plant-based alternatives to ensure they have as much of a flavor profile as possible. While they do not need to taste exactly like meat, they still need to hit all the taste buds to drive customer satisfaction as much as a traditional meat-based dish. It starts with the best plant-based protein sources and the creativity to deliver them in tasty ways.

The profitability of plant-based food and beverage items continues to trend upward. Discover some options to include on your foodservice menu.

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Topics: Foodservice Industry Trends, Restaurants