Fast food chains must increase the pace on plant-based

Of the top 100 restaurant chains in the US, 45 don’t offer a plant-based starter, according to the latest Good Food Restaurant Scorecard.

The Good Food Institute’s report, now in its second year, ranks the chains based on the breadth and depth of their plant-based entrées and their promotion of plant-based eating. The scorecard uses a simple 10-point scale, evaluating multiple aspects of a restaurant’s menu.

Companies not only earn points for offering dishes that are 100% plant-based, but also for using words like “protein” in the name or description, or for promoting them as a “chef’s special”. Those that avoid use of the terms vegan or vegetarian gain extra points (consumers are 56% less likely to choose a dish if it is labelled as such).

Top of the rankings this year were Jamba Juice and White Castle, both scoring nine points. Not far behind with eight were Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Burger King and McDonald’s were at the other end of the table (zero), whilst Pizza Hut (six) and Subway (four) were in the “growing plant-based tier”.

Given that 32% of all US restaurant sales come from these 100 restaurant brands, they are the ones that have the greatest opportunity to capitalise on the plant-based opportunity, GFI said. All are monitoring the plant-based eating trend, according to the Institute’s foodservice analyst Zak Weston. “They recognise that this is a trend that isn’t going away,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.

Weston acknowledged that space constraints on menus can be a challenge for the big fast food chains, but there were intermediate products – like the Beyond Sausage – that could appeal to the mainstream. Some were extending non-meat breakfast options throughout the day.

NPD Group has also reported that shipments of plant-based protein from foodservice distributors to foodservice operators increased 20% in the year ending November 2018 compared to year ago.

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