It’s easy to see why there’s so much buzz around bowls. These dishes lie at the intersection of a few important consumer trends: global flavors, healthier eating and the desire for customization. All told, entrees served in a bowl format grew 3.5 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to Menu Monitor data from Technomic.
If that sounds like an opportunity to menu beans—you’re right.
Bowls, often including beans, have become fixtures of many restaurant concepts. For years, Chipotle Mexican Grill has offered carb-conscious patrons a chance to ditch the tortilla and order a burrito bowl of beans, meat, veggies, salsa and other traditional burrito fillings.
Another chain, El Pollo Loco, offers the Pollo Bowl, with fire-grilled chicken breast, pinto beans, rice, diced onions, fresh cilantro and pico de gallo. And at Taco Shack in Austin, Texas, patrons can build breakfast bowls with refried black or pinto beans and fixings such as eggs, ham, bacon and cheese.
With their unique mix of flavor, versatility and healthfulness, beans help operators get the most out of menuing bowls.
Beans appeal to the significant number of consumers who are eating more plant foods and less meat and other animal products. Rich in high-quality protein, soluble fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and complex carbohydrates, they’re a good stand-in for animal protein or an easy way for operators to add more heft to bowl-based entrees.
Adding more plant foods to the menu also is a great way to reduce food cost. Beans offer high-quality protein at a much better value than animal sources. What’s more, their pricing is typically stable, in contrast to the frequently changing prices of beef, pork or chicken.
It’s also easy to find inspiration for bowls in global cuisines. Middle Eastern favorite falafel, crunchy fried balls of fried chickpeas, garlic, parsley and spices, works well in bowls built with rice, hummus or fresh produce. And Brazilian feijoada, a hearty braise of beans, sausage, beef and pork, could be riffed into a bowl as well.
And given the growing popularity of all-day breakfast, combining beans and traditional breakfast foods may be the next big opportunity in bowls. Beans complement the flavors of eggs, breakfast meats, cheese and other breakfast staples. In addition to American comfort-food breakfast bowls, try a zesty Cuban black beans and rice bowl with fried eggs or a hash of pinto beans, roasted vegetables and chorizo with scrambled eggs.
This post is sponsored by Bush’s Best®