Vegetarian menu options are increasing in U.S. restaurants, according to new trend figures from Technomic’s MenuMonitor database.
In a Technomic’s blog post about the data, Kristin Menas said the number of vegetarian items on restaurant menus climbed by 22% from January to March, compared with the same three months of 2012.
The MenuMonitor figures showed 1,181 vegetarian items on 240 restaurant menus in the January through March period this year, up from 964 items on 227 restaurant menus the same period last year.
Specifically, the MenuMonitor stats showed that vegetarian main dishes in 2013 totaled 661, compared with 594 vegetarian main dish items in 2012. In the appetizer category, the number of vegetarian menu items grew from 223 items last year to 277 items this year.
In the category of side items, vegetarian menu items rose from 79 in the January through March period a year ago to 129 in the corresponding period this year.
Menas cited several examples of recent introductions of vegetarian and veggie-focused offerings on chain menus. Several dishes at Noodles & Company featuring asparagus as an entrée option or appetizer.
“Noodles & Company’s asparagus items promote seasonality, which also brings a sense of freshness and healthfulness to the fast-casual chain’s menu,” she said.
Menas said the popularity of fresh and local produce continues to grow, and that is creating more opportunities for vegetables to take center plate real estate.
Vegetarian alternatives to meats have also found traction, with Burger King recently launching a veggie burger. Ram Restaurant & Brewery is offering a new sliders menu item featuring radish sprouts, sliced red onion, zucchini, red bell peppers and garlic mayonnaise, Menas said.