With prime produce season here, restaurant operators should be thinking about the best ways to incorporate the latest produce trends into their menus.

According to the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, fruits and vegetables will become more of a main attraction on restaurant dishes and will be infused with international flavors on plates moving forward. This sentiment of trend was echoed by David Liesenfelt, CEO of Fresh Concepts, a produce procurement company serving the restaurant industry.

"The biggest thing with produce right now is innovation," Liesenfelt says. "This means having unique produce items or serving produce items in unique ways."

For example, operators should now look at serving cauliflower cut like a steak, rather than florets, in addition to using new and interesting spices to keep flavors fresh.

"Ghost peppers are really popular right now and hotter spices are going into vegetables. The trend is about taking traditional produce and making it exciting to eat again," Liesenfelt adds.

Consumers also are looking for the use of any type of fruits and vegetables that carry the banner of being local, sustainable, organic, and heirloom. Heirloom items such as tomatoes and carrots have more colorful varieties that can be used to spruce up plates and give a more artisanal look and feel to menu options.

Of course, food safety is top of mind for restaurant operators today and each should have a food safety program in place. The program needs to begin with every grower and filter into every area of the restaurant.

"The management of a food safety system is critical to mitigating risk and traceability is a practice that restaurant operators should employ," Liesenfelt says. "You can ruin your brand by having food safety issues, especially if you weren’t doing everything you could as a company to mitigate that public risk."

Fresh Concepts' Produce Management Program is available to restaurant operators through a partnership with Consolidated Concepts, a purchasing consultancy for multi-unit restaurant brands.

"We go out and select growers that follow GFSI standards, who have third-party audits and who would be willing to submit to our second-party audits. We also look for distributors who have GFSI food safety programs in place so that from shipper to distributor to restaurant we can trace the product from the field where it was grown to the restaurant where it was served," Liesenfelt says. "By following this process, we can ensure food safety protocols are being followed from field to fork."

Industry News, Sustainability