Plant-based menus taking root in hospitality industry

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A Beyond Burger and a Beyond Meat flatbread are available at more than 1,000 Courtyard by Marriott Bistro Bar locations across the Americas.

With diners increasingly seeking sustainable and health-conscious culinary offerings, plentiful plant-based menu options are becoming commonplace across every segment of the hospitality industry.

“Today’s guests are very aware of environmental impact,” said Marc Ehrler, Hilton’s vice president corporate chef for the Americas. “With this focus on sustainability, people are looking at all facets of their lifestyle, including their diet. We also know that, generally, people want to eat healthier, so plant-based encourages an overall healthier lifestyle.”

According to Ehrler, expanding Hilton’s plant-based and vegan menu offerings has been a priority in recent years. 

At The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, for example, executive chef Matthew Morgan has spearheaded efforts to craft more vegan options at the property’s signature restaurant, Circa 55. Last fall, he debuted an all-vegan Thanksgiving brunch menu at the venue, offering dishes such as a vegan pot pie, stuffed sweet potatoes and avocado tarts.

While demand for plant-based dishes at Hilton restaurants has traditionally been highest in the California, New York and Miami markets, Ehrler asserted that interest is spreading across the U.S., with plant-based options also proving popular at properties in markets such as Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa.

“Plant-based dishes of today have evolved,” Ehrler said. “For instance, we’re seeing plant-based meat alternatives rise in popularity. While these alternatives aren’t necessarily new, the ingredients in the products are changing and are much better than their predecessors.”

Like Hilton, Marriott International is jumping on the plant-based meat alternatives trend. Late last year, Marriott announced plans to introduce to its Courtyard by Marriott Bistro Bar menu Beyond Meat, a meat alternative made of peas, beans and brown rice, among other ingredients. Items like a Beyond Burger and a Beyond Meat flatbread are currently available at more than 1,000 Courtyard by Marriott hotels in the Americas, according to Matthew Von Ertfelda, senior vice president of food and beverage for global operations at Marriott. 

“Launching the Beyond Burger menu option generated almost 30 million media impressions for us, reinforcing the fact that we’re tapping into a trend that’s resonating,” Von Ertfelda said. “We know that everyone is something nowadays, whether that’s vegetarian, flexitarian, gluten-free, etc., and understanding and recognizing those preferences on our menu is key.”

Von Ertfelda estimated that around 30% of Marriott’s menus are designed to reflect various dietary preferences, with options that also tout sustainable and responsible sourcing, which is also emerging as a priority for guests.

“We know that sustainability is critical, and we know it’s hypercritical to Gen Z,” Von Ertfelda said. “Chefs are recognizing this, and we’re no longer getting the ordinary, uninteresting offerings people were used to. There’s now more creativity, and we’re getting dishes that are not just [plant-based] but also reflect provenance, heritage and showcase how they were sourced.”

Plant-based dishes have even permeated all-inclusive resorts.

Leading the way on the vegan-friendly front is Palmaia  --  the House of AiA, a new all-inclusive concept on the Riviera Maya that opened earlier this year. In addition to core menus that feature meat and dairy, the resort offers parallel plant-based menus at all its dining venues, which include four a la carte restaurants, a food truck and room service. Palmaia -- the House of AiA also offers a “health cafe,” where the vast majority of menu items are plant-based.

Alex Ferri, the property’s founder and CEO, said, “The problem with eating plant-based is that it’s not easy to [do when you] travel. We solve that. Instead of having to research where all the plant-based options are, people can just come to us, and everything on the menu fits within their dietary needs.”

Some of the property’s more popular plant-based options include a burger topped with homemade vegan cheese, kimchi and a red Mexican sauce; leek and tofu cream; and “Eggless Rancheros,” which Ferri said guests have deemed almost identical to the real deal. 

In total, Palmaia offers more than 150 plant-based options across the resort, with plant-based menus presented to diners alongside the traditional menus.

“The way we’re doing plant-based is a major differentiator,” Ferri said. “It’s not only plant-based but the most advanced level of plant-based cooking, with everything freshly made in our kitchen. Plant-based is for everyone, because we should all be worried about our impact on the planet and how to safeguard what’s left for future generations.”

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