The Rush by Toast - September 27

By: Isabelle Hahn and Chelsea Verstegen

5 Minute Read

Sep 27, 2019

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Welcome to the ninth edition of The Rush, where we cover notable happenings in the restaurant industry. This week's coverage includes: Disney’s adoption of plant-based menu items, the rise of zero-waste restaurant concepts, and the health benefits of pizza.

⏳ Here's what you need to know this week in 10 seconds or less:

  • More than 400 vegan dishes will be available at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida next month, according to CNN. Disneyland will follow in spring 2020. 

  • Rhodora, possibly the first truly zero-waste restaurant in the U.S., is opening later this month. 

  • An Italian scientist has led three studies investigating the health benefits of eating pizza.

⏰ If you have more time:

Disney’s Theme Parks Embrace Plant-Based Diets

  • More than 400 vegan dishes will be available at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida next month, according to CNN. Disneyland will follow in spring 2020. 

  • At the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, IL earlier this year, experts predicted that one of the hottest food trends would be plant-based everything.

It may be a small world after all, but it’s also a plant-based one. Disney announced on Tuesday that they'll be introducing plant-based food options to every dining location in their U.S. theme parks.

Together, Disneyland and Disney World have more than 602 restaurants and food counters. By incorporating specific plant-based menu items in each of those quick-service or table-service restaurants, Disney is becoming more accessible to the 5% of adults who identify as a vegetarian and the 3% of adults who follow a vegan diet in the U.S.

Proteins and plant-based protein substitutes like plant-based meat alternatives are growing in popularity outside of the vegan and vegetarian communities as well. For products like Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger, it helps that 95% of people who purchased a plant-based burger this year are regular meat-eaters, data from market researcher NPD Group shows.

While the strictly plant-based community is a big reason for these shifts, they only make up a single-digit percentage of the U.S. population. Market growth and increasing popularity for plant-based foods are a result of growing health consciousness, environmental awareness, and personal choice. 

The Rise of Sustainable Restaurants

  • Rhodora, possibly the first truly zero-waste restaurant in the U.S., is opening later this month. 
  • Sustainability and hyper-local sourcing have been top dining trends since 2012. In 2019, zero-waste cooking is the #3 dining trend.

In July, Henry Moynahan Rich’s company, Oberon Group, shut down Fort Greene restaurant Mettā with the intention of reopening as a zero-waste restaurant, possibly the first in all of America according to Grub Street.

The new concept, Rhodora, will open its doors later this month. The move to carbon neutrality for the Oberon group was “inspired by Anthony Myint, the Mission Chinese Food co-founder who now runs Zero Foodprint, a nonprofit focused on fighting the climate crisis, which boasts partners such as Noma, Osteria Francescana, and El Celler de Can Roca,” reports Grub Street.

Sustainability and hyper-local sourcing have been top trends in dining since 2012. In 2019, zero-waste cooking is the #3 dining trend. To become a more sustainable restaurant, you can optimize a number of operational areas like food waste, energy efficiency, animal welfare, water efficiency, renewable energy, and more.

Outside of those benefits, Jeff Clark of the National Restaurant Association says sustainability is a great marketing tool to attract millennial consumers, who seek out businesses with values similar to their own. Consumers are also becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability in all aspects of life. 

Can Pizza Prevent Cancer?

  • An Italian scientist has led three studies investigating the health benefits of eating pizza.

  • His research has earned him an IG Nobel Prize, a satirical award for authentic scientific research that “honors achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

The health benefits discovered, which include reducing the risk of heart attacks and different types of cancer, apply only to certain types of pizza made in Italy that follow the Mediterranean Diet. So, unfortunately, binging slice after delicious slice from your neighborhood pizzeria likely won't have all the health benefits you might imagine. The results of this study are noteworthy, however, because our immediate assumption is that pizza is bad for you. How the tables have turned.

In other pizza news, it’s National Pizza Month, and Pizza Today has compiled a list of 30 ways to market this event to benefit your restaurant. The list includes pizza eating contests, offering pizza-related swag, and a 31 days of pizza menu. And, Pizza Hut has concocted a stuffed Cheez-It Pizza, not to be confused with cheese pizza flavored Cheez-It’s. Reviewers say the pizza tastes as if you are gobbling down an entire family-size box of Cheez-It’s in one bite. Count us in.

Why These Trends May Impact Your Restaurant Operations

  • Plant-based trend moving to status quo: From the Impossible Burger facing a shortage to Disney creating plant-based menu items, it's safe to say that vegan and vegetarian diets aren't going anywhere soon. Taking a page from Disney's book and adding a new, plant-based item to your menu can help cater to diners looking for healthier, non-meat-based food options, and might even get you a few more regulars. 
  • Adopting sustainability: Zero-waste initiatives and sustainable practices should be woven into the foundation of your restaurant. According to QSR Magazine, the average quick-service restaurant produces just over a ton of trash a week. To make your restaurant more sustainable, you can offer multiple collection bins (compost, recycling, trash), offer different portion sizes to help with food waste, and use sustainable technology to reduce waste while maintaining efficiency. 

  • Pizza craze: Though you may not win an international award for your pizza, you can focus on healthier options to keep up with the current trend. Also, jumping on national holidays — as out there as they might be — to advertise or upsell certain menu items is a golden ticket to profit. Check out some other great ideas for restaurant promotion.

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