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Help drive sales of plant-based menu items with potatoes

Lamb Weston Fries
Image Courtesy of Lamb Weston

As more consumers continue to reduce their consumption of animal-based foods and adopt flexitarian diets, restaurant operators can help drive sales of plant-based menu items by incorporating familiar ingredients that appeal to a broader audience, such as potatoes and fries.

The current plant-based landscape

Two thirds of consumers (66%) currently eat plant-based foods, and 23% of consumers said they are eating more plant-based foods than before, according to the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) 2020 Consumer Planning Program report.

In addition to vegan and vegetarian diets, consumers are adopting flexitarian diets, which is a mix between the two. Technomic’s 2021 Seafood and Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report found that 8% of consumers now describe themselves as flexitarians, up from 5% in 2018. 

According to IFMA, consumers said they would like to see plant-based items across a range of restaurant segments, including 36% who said they would like to see them on quick-service menus, 29% in casual-dining restaurants and 26% in fast-casual restaurants. Plant-based entrees have grown 5% on Top 500 chain menus, which shows leading restaurant operators are incorporating them into their menus successfully, Technomic concluded.

It’s clear consumer’s dietary trends are evolving and plant-forward eating is becoming more mainstream, so restaurant menus must also evolve to meet the rising demand.

Encouraging trial of plant-based foods with potatoes

When promoting plant-based items on your menu, it’s important to think about how these offerings are being presented to appeal to the broadest possible audience. Since the movement has moved beyond the traditional vegetarian vegan diets, there are guests who may be new to plant-based eating and are interested in trying new dishes, but don’t know where to start. 

A low-risk way to test and learn what works for both your operation and your guests is to pair plant-based menu items with more familiar ingredients, such as potato-based side dishes like fries or chips. Not only are fries popular among guests, they are also one of the most profitable items on your menu.

One way to incorporate fries is by pairing with plant-based main dishes, like meatless burgers. Much of the buzz around plant-based foods has centered on plant-based proteins. IFMA found that 77% of consumers said they were interested in plant-based proteins, with the strongest interest among younger demographic groups.

Guests are 92% more likely to order a meatless burger when paired with fries, and sweet potato fries are the preferred choice, according to a 2018 Lamb Weston pairing study.

In addition to offering fries as a side, fries and potatoes also make a great base for innovative plant-forward creations.

For a vegetarian option, consider Nacho Loaded CrissCuts, topped with cotija cheese, jalapeños, cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, red onion, cilantro and chili powder. For a vegan alternative, try offering Vegan Chip Nachos, topped with roasted corn, cherry tomatoes, serrano peppers, avocado and cilantro.

Other potato-based sides or appetizers that can help operators capitalize on consumer interest in plant-forward offerings include Spicy Mexican Sweet Potato Loaded Breakfast Fries, Farmers Market Fries and Vegan Chickpea Curry with Dippers. You could also make potatoes an integral element of a main course with this Waffled Hash Brown Veggie Sandwich.

In conclusion, if you’re looking to reposition plant-based options on your menu to enhance their appeal and help drive sales, consider incorporating ingredients that are familiar and profitable, like potatoes and fries. To get started, check out more recipe inspiration at LambWeston.com.

This post is sponsored by Lamb Weston

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