Consumption of sweet potatoes is on the rise, and the Benson-based North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission wants to make sure consumers are able to enjoy the nutritious vegetable even when they dine out.

"We"ve been focused more on chain restaurants and getting sweet potatoes added to and more widely used on restaurant menus," said executive director Kelly McIver.

As part of that effort, the organization commissioned surveys to help understand the opportunities for sweet potatoes in foodservice channels.

In one survey of more than 5,000 restaurant menus, Datassentials analyzed penetration and use of sweet potatoes, and another, conducted by JRS Consulting, asked more than 1,000 consumers about their dining out habits relating to sweet potatoes.

The surveys showed that fresh sweet potatoes have been showing up more frequently on restaurant menus and indicated that opportunities remain for further growth in all menu and day parts.  

Here are some of the findings:

  • About two-thirds of consumers eat sweet potatoes in restaurants
  • Baked whole is the most preferred way to eat sweet potatoes, followed by fries then mashed
  • About 15% of a la carte sweet potato sides are upgrade options, netting an average of $1.50 more per order
  • Diners said they would order more sweet potatoes if they were offered in different ways
  • The No. 1 reason more diners don"t order more sweet potatoes when they eat out is availability and
  • 75% of diners believe sweet potatoes are healthy and nutritious.