In the presentation “Restaurant Trends: What’s on the Plate for Foodservice?” Datassential Director Maeve Webster said 69% of consumers said they are likely to order a menu item featuring locally sourced produce.
“The term ‘locally sourced’ [or] ‘local,’ while that means a number of different things to a number of different people, is a huge motivator for consumers,” Webster said. “In fact it’s the No. 1 motivator when it comes to produce.”
Interest in seasonal produce menu items is also big, with 64% of consumers reporting they are likely to order items featuring in-season fruit and vegetables. The number of limited time offers featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables has skyrocketed, according to Datassential’s tracking data.
“Seasonal use of vegetables is at an all-time high in the restaurant industry and we see no indication that this is going to slow down going forward,” said Webster, who added whole restaurant concepts have been created around the idea of using produce at the height of its in-season freshness.
Although consumers are interested in healthful menu options when eating out, Webster said they are not willing to give up good taste, price — unless there’s a perceived sense of value — or indulgence.
To get a feeling of indulgence, consumers don’t necessarily need decadent high-calorie food. “Indulging can just feel like they are satisfied. They are leaving like they’ve had an experience, they’ve gotten their money’s worth,” Webster said.
As an example, Webster explained that the turkey burger options are generally priced higher than other burger options, and on top of that, are less likely to include garnishes like cheese, bacon and mushrooms.
Since healthful options on restaurant menus can be more expensive, with fewer add-ons, incorporating fruits and vegetables can give customers more of a sense of value.
Webster said adding produce to menu items that leverage health and wellness can help justify price, create more of a visual appeal to health and wellness options on the menu, and create excitement.
Healthy menu items should be as exciting as other menu items, Webster said, giving the example of turkey burger at one restaurant that includes red onion jam, brie, cranberry mayo and sweet potato crunch.