Vegetables are at the center of the plate or a “very strong second” at restaurants today, Kevin Brown, president and CEO of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, told United Fresh attendees at the general breakfast session in Chicago on Wednesday.
Brown said he asked nine of his chefs to share what they are seeing in their restaurants in terms of produce usage and what they predict for the future. He noted that in some restaurants vegetables have a separate section on the menu, and they are found in appetizers, soups, salads and drinks. Vegetables are “critically more important to our operations,” Brown said.
Plant-based diets are also on the rise. “We don’t view it just as a lifestyle choice,” Brown said. Taste comes first when it comes to vegetables, and restaurants need to provide quality and flavor in their dishes.
One Lettuce Entertain You chef noted that today’s dishes are simpler. With less on the plate, the quality of the ingredients needs to be higher.
While consumers are looking for healthier options, calling out those items on the menu with a certain symbol — like a heart — can backfire.
“If you really wanted something to die, just put a heart next to it,” said Brown.
Consumers also want to know more about where their food comes from. Brown said his restaurants look to farmers for information on products, which adds authenticity and leads to better marketing – and in some cases a higher price on the menu.
“We like to know the story,” said Brown.
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