Versatile, ready-made ingredients can open up a menu and help the bottom line.

Full-service operators found out over the past several months how to create an off-premises program in a pinch, but now have moved on to perfecting it, from the way their website looks and functions on down to the ingredients and menu items that they offer.

Operators are now factoring in another noticeable trend overall in the industry, in that consumers are returning to the pre-pandemic norm of eating healthier, including items eaten on-the-go. There is a baseline expectation that a menu will have at least a couple of menu items that speak to the health-conscious crowd, as the pandemic only more finely tuned consumer’s awareness of what they are putting into their bodies. As a result, trending more heavily than ever are plant-based burgers, particularly those burgers with clean, recognizable ingredients.

“I think we’re starting to see consumers be a bit more health savvy and step out of their comfort zone to get items with cleaner ingredients,” says Matthew Luaders, director of culinary research and development at CSSI Culinary Marketing. “It’s not that they are moving to be vegan or vegetarian, but there is an acute awareness that they should take care of themselves with a better diet. One of the pitfalls of traditional garden burgers is that they tend to dry out a bit during an off-premises journey, so operators have to play around, and I’d always recommend beans with strong flavor to serve as the basis of a burger that will really hold up, and still offer something clean and healthy.”

Still, operators are working with thinner margins than ever before, and scrutiny on kitchen labor is at an all-time high. That means versatile, low-prep ingredients that can be leveraged across a menu, and across dayparts, are keys to both plant-based burgers and a robust off-premises program overall. For these reasons, in addition to the health angle, Luaders is a vocal proponent of Bush’s Best Easy Entrees.

“One of the things we like most about Bush’s Best Easy Entrees is that they add such versatility to your operation,” Luaders says. “Beans can work in a side dish, or in a center-of-the-plate item. Chili is our go-to, but with very little labor, you can also turn those beans into a flavorful southwest burger patty. This particular flavor makes it perfect for a patty that stands out compared to the traditional great northern bean-driven patty that can be a bit lackluster or bland.”

Other on-trend menu items easily generated from Bush’s Best Easy Entree line that Luaders cites as fan favorites include tacos, Pozole, and other hearty stews that are perfect for fall. The versatility is endless, Luaders says, and the quality is there, too.

“When I speak to consumers and other chefs, I always tell them to not be afraid of the can,” Luaders says. “These products are of impeccable quality, and you can use them in any number of ways.”

For more information on how versatile ingredients will help perfect an off-premises program, visit

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