3 ways to offer plant-based dishes with a global spin

Photograph: Shutterstock

While interest in meat remains strong, more consumers are integrating plant-based foods into their diet to be more healthful and sustainable. At the same time, flavor trends remain at the heart of the restaurant industry, with consumers seeking new and unique flavors from around the globe.

As operators formulate menu development around plant-based dishes, it will be vital to use ingredients that appeal to the full spectrum of eaters (vegetarians, flexitarians, omnivores, pescatarians, etc.), as well as incorporate global fare onto menus. Here are three strategies to consider for satisfying consumers’ cravings for global cuisines and plant-based eating.

1. Plant-based meat alternatives

According to the Technomic report, the plant-based trend in 2020 will extend beyond faux meats to include plant-based eggs, gelatin, cheeses, milks, sauces and condiments. Moreover, as branded meat alternatives saturate the market, operators can consider creating proprietary plant-based faux meat products or proprietary, signature dishes that incorporate plant-based meat to differentiate from competitors and reduce expenses. As these plant-based alternatives become more commonplace on menus, operators will need to broaden the way they market these items beyond healthy eating to include a message about the dish’s flavors and sustainability. Global cuisine makes this easy—with spices, sauces and condiments from around the world, flavors like sweet, spicy, smoky and sour can all be included in plant-based dishes to create layers of craveable flavor. Consider pad thai, for instance—this popular noodle dish from Thailand features a sweet-and-sour sauce that consumers come back for again and again.

2. Authentic global flavor influence

Technomic’s 2019 Flavor Consumer Trend Report points out that global influence on menus is on the rise. Global specialty chains continue to be some of the fastest growing in the country, introducing consumers to new and unique flavors.

Operators should work to convey authenticity with ingredients and preparation styles because this will help them capitalize on consumer demand for global flavors. Doing so can offer more than a flavorful meal: Consumers will also get the chance to experience another culture’s cuisine more authentically. Furthermore, brands should try to be as specific as they can be on menus. For instance, labeling a dish “Chinese” or “Szechuan” will be more appealing to the consumer than simply “Asian.”

3. Plant-based menu development with help from suppliers

Operators can create plant-based meat dishes using vegetables, beans or grains. Operators who menu meat substitutes can address issues with customers not being as familiar with certain formats by writing detailed menu descriptions and using high-quality pictures, offering samples and training staff to answer questions. Some of the best places to look for help and guidance are recipe databases from suppliers. In addition to providing ideas and prep guidelines, they often include descriptions that play up attributes of the ingredients that can tempt consumers and make the menu items more approachable.

Operators can also take advantage of assistance from suppliers who offer plant-based items that help with menu development and reduce prep time. For example, Bush’s Best® Blended Burger is made with beef blended with Bush’s Best® Great Northern Beans, mushrooms and salt. The combination (60% beef, 20% beans and 20% mushrooms) makes a burger that has all the flavor and juiciness of an all-beef hamburger but with the added benefits of plant-based ingredients.

Other plant-based speed scratch options can include prepped vegetables, marinated tofu and more. Because of the breadth of plant-based offerings from suppliers, it’s easy for operators to speed up their back-of-house prep and streamline operations while still offering an array of interesting global foods.

The future of plant-based foods

According to the 2019 Flavor Consumer Trend Report, about 26% of operators are menuing items that are plant based, and it’s expected that by 2021, that number will rise to 28.4%. As the plant-forward movement carries on, operators will need to look to new natural resources to keep menus exciting.

Items that are high in protein and fiber will continue to satisfy, and menu items that work sustainability into their construction will succeed as well. Previously overlooked parts of familiar plants, such as beet greens, sweet potato leaves and avocado blossoms, for instance, all help to eliminate the waste associated with plant-based eating.

For operators who are looking to up their plant-based game in 2020, taking cues from cuisines around the world and incorporating plant-based ingredients such as beans, mushrooms and more will make menu development easy.

To learn more about plant-based eating, visit

This post is sponsored by Bush’s Best®


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