College and University | Deli | Food Trends | Trend Feast | Vegetables

On Game Day, You Bet on Team Vegetables

Sep 15, 2019

On Game Day, You Bet on Team Vegetables

Americans know they should eat more vegetables, and honestly, they're trying. Thirty-four percent of consumers are ordering healthy items more often than they did two years ago.1 Truth is, when we put them on the menu in ways Americans like, they're eating them up. Who would have thought we'd see a burger joint serving up brussel sprouts with maple glaze as an appetizer? But Boise Fry Company in Boise, ID, does just that, and it's a consistent patron favorite.

White Castle jumps on the veggie bandwagon

What this move says is that Americans are shifting how they think about vegetables. When veggies hit the drive-thru window, you know something has changed: veggie-based appetizers and main meals have gone mainstream.

What hasn't changed is Americans' desire for fun, quick and easy ways to enjoy their veggies.

Connecting the dots from veggies to fun

Fall and winter see the onset of Americans' favorite indoor sports-watching season. From watching the game at your restaurant to tailgate take-out to GrubHub delivery, there's opportunity for on-trend veggie dishes your patrons will come back for.

Don't want to make a permanent change while you try out this trend? Make it a limited time offer, tied to the season or the game.

Limited time offers, or LTOs, are tailor-made for pairing with seasons and events:

  • 78% of consumers say seasonal items top LTOs' attraction 2
  • 60% of operators say seasonality is a factor in a successful LTO 3
  • Game day callouts (including Super Bowl, football, tail gate, etc.) have grown +12% on appetizer/entrée/side menus in the past 4 years 4
Veggies that lead the way to craveable fun

Fried veggies sure are fun, and fried veggie apps are trending at U.S. sports bars, with specialty breaded vegetables up 18%, jalapeño poppers up 15%, fried pickles up 12%.5

But other fun appetizers featuring vegetables are also on the rise–avocado toast has grown over 1000% in the past four years, and Brussels sprouts are up 110%.6 Yeah, Brussels sprouts – clearly, Americans are eating them more, and it's because we're making them delicious.

Veggie doesn't even necessarily mean low-cal, boring and unfulfilling. Indulgent veggie appetizers are growing in their appearance on menus in the past four years:

  • Tater tots +125%
  • Loaded tots +441%
  • Loaded fries +63%7

QSR to fast-casual to upscale and beyond

The trend to offer more vegetables in craveable ways is here to stay. No matter what kind of restaurant, no matter what day part, no matter what cuisine, you're missing out if you aren't offering more vegetable dishes, in your style and cuisine.

Here's how some restaurants are getting into the act:

  • Fiction Kitchen in Raleigh, NC, menus their popular Root Vegetable & Fries, served with the choice of chipotle & buttermilk; or spicy peanut sauce
  • Tempura Green Beans at The Habit are a customer favorite, and a great complement to their custom burgers
  • Christopher's Restaurant & Bar in Cambridge, MA serves Buffalo Cauliflower with a side of blue cheese 8
  • Beefsteak, Vegetables Unleashed makes veggies center-stage, pairing with warm grains, fresh sauces, crisp toppings, and an optional bit of meat or protein

What qualities make veggie Game Day dishes craveable?

  1. Crunchy. Fries make a great base for a craveable veggie-focused dish. Check out our recipes using Simplot's Sidewinder® fries, with their unique shape and amazing taste and performance
  2. Rich. Creamy, rich avocados remain on trend, as house-made guacamole or a topping for other dishes. Simplot's Harvest Fresh AvocadosTM guacamole, pulp, slices and dices make it easy to add avocado dishes to your menus.
  3. Sweet, salty and spicy. Kick up a current favorite with sweet heat from Thai sweet chili sauce, sriracha peppers, or kimchee.
  4. Gooey. Cheesy goodness tops so many of our favorites! Change it up with melted Havarti or Muenster for smooth comfort food appeal.

1 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, Technomic Inc.
2,3 Datassential The Keynote Report July 2017
4 Datassential MenuTrends 2019
5 Q1’18-Q1’19 Ignite Menu, Technomic Inc.; Base: 105 Sports Bar Operators
6,7 Datassential MenuTrends 2019
8 US Foods, Ten of the Latest Appetizer Trends