Rewarding Better Agricultural Practices and Disrupting Traditional Menu Structures, Case Studies in Organizational Change, and What “Plant-Forward” Really Means for You, Your Customers, and the Future of the Industry
by Arlin Wasserman
Founder and Partner, Changing Tastes, and Chair, Menus of Change Sustainable Business Leadership Council
When the restaurant industry’s leading chefs, executives, and operators gather at The Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus next June for the 6th Annual Menus of Change Leadership Summit, we’ll focus on a topic most every operation should be addressing, and one that presents tremendous opportunity to attract diners with new flavors and engaging menu innovation. That is: Plant-Forward.
Menus of Change defines plant-forward as: “a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, plant-based foods—including fruits and vegetables (produce); whole grains; beans, other legumes (pulses), and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices—and that reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability.” To help advance broad acceptance of this definitive definition and positioning of plant-forward, conference programming will include a brief, compelling summary in TED Talk format about what nutrition and environmental science tells us about the optimal composition of our diets; the (optional) role of limited quantities of sustainably produced meat in our recipes, menus, and diets; and consumer insights about diner perceptions of plant-forward menus and plant-based foods (including what we know about the best consumer-facing language to support these directions).
With this year’s theme, the annual summit will provide ways to focus and accelerate an important mega-trend that is transforming the foodservice industry.
By attending the leadership summit, executives and operators will understand more about what plant-forward dining can mean for their business while gaining access to the most valuable lessons learned from some of the trailblazing leaders in this movement, who now have several years of experience. The 2018 summit also marks a transition for the Menus of Change initiative overall: from the “why,” emphasizing the nutritional and environmental case for change, to now increasingly focusing on the “how,” what key business insights can be gleaned from both success and failure among early adopters over the last few years of plant-forward culinary innovation and operational experience.
We’ll also provide practical advice, menu strategies, and case studies to help culinary professionals and operators succeed in the following ways:
- Scaling Change: Driving Better Practices in High-Volume Agriculture and Food Production. Supply chain transparency, including specific strategies for how operators can best reward better agriculture, animal husbandry, and fisheries practices, what those practices should be (from regenerative agriculture to a focus on biodiversity), and how the stories that illuminate these practices and approaches can be shared with diners in simple but credible ways.
- Integrated Organizational Change: Case Studies from the Field. Operator case studies in change that represent an integration of multiple MOC principles, by foodservice sector: what is working, who are the market innovators and segment leaders, and how are they achieving results, from healthcare and campus dining to QSRs and fast casual.
- Disrupting Menu Structures: Culinary Strategy and the Protein Portfolio. A deep dive into successful, innovative culinary strategies that support new menu categories and approaches to either leverage minimal or significantly reduced (2 ounce) quantities of meat, pair “meat as a condiment” with plant protein, or employ other related strategies to animate the protein portfolio framework delineated in the Menus of Change Protein Flip infographic and Protein Plays documents. Also to be highlighted here will be discussions of cost/value strategies around “less meat, better meat”—where higher per-ounce meat budgets are paired with lower overall quantities of higher quality, sustainably raised animal products resulting in overall budget-neutral purchasing innovation. This will include more case studies and lessons learned—both positive and negative—from operators who now have some experience with plant-forward dining.
The summit’s focus on specific, plant-forward dining strategies will also help the culinary profession and foodservice industry address some of the key issues facing our industry in the year ahead, as identified by the Menus of Change Sustainable Business Leadership Council and the Scientific and Technical Advisory Council. These issues range from reducing antibiotics and other agricultural chemicals to the urgent need to address climate change and manage the risks it poses to the foodservice industry.
Next June, our 6th Annual Menus of Change Leadership Summit at the CIA’s Hyde Park campus will help define, or “fill in the blanks,” by offering culinary and operational strategies for incorporating plant forward recipes, menus, and formats across settings ranging from branded restaurants to hospital foodservice. And it will provide updates and advice for how to best integrate a variety of new nutritional science findings related to plant-forward menus, from new insights about healthy and sustainable diets to what we know, and don’t know, about new plant-based meat replacements.
And, when the industry comes together, I hope the results will be both profitable and delicious.