According to new research from Technomic, the total menu incidence of vegetables has increased by more than 11 percent in the past three years. Not only are veggies more prevalent in restaurants, they're moving into center-of-the-plate roles.

"An increase in the price of proteins has given chefs the opportunity to introduce inventive vegetable formats onto the menu," said Darren Tristano, Technomic EVP. "For example, operators have found a variety of uses for kale, and it has grown in total menu incidence by almost 400 percent over the past five years. Additionally, different preparation methods, like roasting Brussels sprouts or caramelizing root vegetables, have had a big influence on the way vegetables are menued."

Technomic research about the vegetable category shows that opportunities remain for growth. Other highlights include:

  • More than three-fifths of consumers (64 percent) agree that it is important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition, up from 57 percent just three years ago.
  • Nearly two-thirds of consumers (65 percent) agree that restaurants can offer healthy food without sacrificing taste. Operators look to key health-halo terms to suggest healthier dishes. For example, 87 percent of consumers believe that fresh foods are healthier. Similarly, 87 percent of consumers say that fresh foods taste better.
  • More than nine out of 10 consumers agree that menu items containing a full serving of vegetables are more healthy.

"Our new Category Close-Up report on vegetables reveals their growing prominence on menus. Increasingly, vegetables are being offered prime real estate on diners' plates," said Kimberly Perman, senior manager at Technomic. "No longer reserved for the perimeter, vegetables are featured more often in center-of-plate arrangements and, when done right as sides, are stealing the spotlight from protein-based entrées."

Technomic's research echoes recent data from the National Restaurant Association that also shows a growing interest from consumers to eat healthier, more nutritious options.

Read more about restaurant trends.

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