Plant-based burgers and other faux meats are proliferating on chain menus—but usually they share space with beef burgers, steak and other red meats. Just Salad is going one step further, completely eliminating grilled steak from its menu and replacing it with Beyond Meat’s plant-based meatballs. The fast casual is featuring the meatballs in its vegetarian Keto Zoodle Bowl, a mix of zucchini noodles, grape tomatoes, roasted mushrooms and Parmesan.
The chain is not going animal protein-free—diners can still opt for chicken on their salads—but some customers will be disappointed that grilled steak is no longer available, admits Janani Lee, chief sustainability officer for Just Salad. “The Smokehouse Steak Salad was in the top 10 in sales, so some customers will miss it,” she says. “But plant-based meat is the wave of the future, and we wanted to offer that option.”
Just Salad is sourcing Beyond Beef in bulk form, and kitchen staff will hand-roll the meatballs at each of its 37 locations, combining the product with custom seasonings for a Mediterranean flavor profile, says Lee. Tofu is also offered as a vegan option, but it has more of an Asian flavor profile, she adds.
The introduction of plant-based meat is the latest step in Just Salad’s Green Standard Sustainability initiative, launched earlier this year with the mission of putting “planet over profit.” The production of Beyond Beef is more sustainable than raising and processing cattle, according to studies, because the former uses less water, land and energy.
The plant-based meatballs will be priced about the same as the steak as a salad addition, says Lee.