Variety is important, especially for vegetables. Half of consumers would like restaurants to offer a wider variety of vegetarian entrees, according to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report. Some operators are menuing mix-and-match vegetable sides as entrees to appeal to consumers’ increasing desire for variety and choice with their veggie mains. Here are three concepts that have succeeded with this route or are ideating in this direction.
Vegetables for barbecue fans
Alabama chain Full Moon Bar-B-Que has been serving mix-and-match veggies for about three years. Although the chain started in 1986 as a “basic barbecue restaurant with meats, beans and slaw,” according to co-owner David Maluff, it’s established a greater customer base by offering fresh vegetables. “We noticed the trend of people getting three or four sides of vegetables, so we wanted to offer it as an entree,” says Maluff. The chain sells three vegetables for $7.99 and four for $9.99, with each veggie portion clocking in around 5 to 7 ounces each. The chain now sells about 25 veggie plates a day per location, a success for a barbecue joint, according to Maluff. Options rotate regularly, but include sweet potatoes, collard greens, steamed cabbage and broccoli. There’s also a special vegetable offered most days of the week—“it drives customers into our restaurant,” says Maluff.
Vegetables by the scoop
Ohio's Little Eater serves vegetables by the scoop that diners can build into an entree. Items change due to local and seasonal availability, but current offerings include a dish of sweet potato and black bean succotash with cilantro and lime, and a dish of organic ginger poached beets with caramelized shallot-thyme vinaigrette. Scoops are priced at $4 for one, $7.50 for two, $10 for three and $12 for four.
Build-your-own veggie platters
Because Wildflower Bread Company has so many vegetables in-house, founder Louis Basile says there’s potential to do a side category that would be smaller-portioned vegetables that customers can build into an entree. Customers could select one to three dishes from a choice of five to seven options (main staples and rotational seasonal items) to build into a full meal. Still in its ideation phase, the mix-and-match veggie dish idea came about after noticing customers were asking for more vegetables, but the chain’s single-vegetable entree (a cauliflower steak) wasn’t successful enough to become permanent. “It was ahead of its time,” says Basile—but he’s hoping mix-and-match veggies aren’t.