What began as a trend, “clean eating” has since surpassed trend status, advancing to movement and, now, lifestyle. Though interpretations and executions of the clean eating movement vary from raw to relaxed, the core principle remains the same: fresh, simple ingredients that are as close to their natural form as possible. That means un- or minimally processed or refined, and free of additives including preservatives, hormones, antibiotics and artificial sweeteners.
Today, a growing number of customers (Millennials and Generation Z, in particular) not only want to know exactly what they’re putting in their bodies, but where it comes from as well. And they’re willing to pay more for it – that’s why, from high end to fast casual, restaurants the world over are rethinking their menus to focus on “clean” in some form or fashion. Whether they create a restaurant concept focused entirely on clean eating, or simply craft and call attention to clean entrees on a more diverse menu, restaurants that have successfully “gone clean” hold these ideas top of mind:
Keep it local and seasonal
Shopping close to home truly benefits everyone. Customers know that local food is FRESH food – not food that has spent weeks or months traveling from distant farms and warehouses. Restaurants benefit both from building trust with their customers, and from the creativity and variety that seasonal offerings add to their menu. And with a large percentage of your food costs staying within the local economy, communities reap the rewards as well.
Better yet, grow your own
Ambitious chefs with the added bonus of extra space are growing some of their own ingredients. Known as “hyperlocal,” we’re seeing everything from windowsill herb gardens and planter boxes to large-scale rooftop gardens and hydroponic basement gardens.
Power up your prep game
With clean eating’s heavy emphasis on fresh and local, you’ll have more ingredients that need to be sliced and diced – most likely multiple times each shift. So you’ll need to make sure you have the right amount of prep space and equipment, including tables, cutting boards and knives, as well as ample cold-storage capabilities.
Craft scratch-made flavors
From house-made condiments and signature drinks to breads baked on site, creating bold, fresh flavors from scratch meets the clean eater’s need for freshness – and the restaurant’s need to create the proprietary items customers crave and come back for. The equipment you need depends on what your signature offerings are:
- Juicers, soda taps and water filtration systems for house-made beverages
- Vacuum sealers for flash pickling
- Grills and blenders for fire-roasted sauces
- Wood-fired ovens for rustic breads and pizzas
Make transparency priority #1
This can impact restaurants in two ways. First and foremost, clean-eating customers want to know every ingredient going into the entrees they order – and the fewer the better. Seeing the ingredients in the menu description adds to their confidence that the meal they’re about to eat is local, fresh and delicious. The second type of transparency customers look for is literal – they want to see the ingredients they are about to eat. For many restaurants, particularly fast-casual concepts, this means putting produce on display in glass-doored coolers and walk-ins, or incorporating glass-paneled meal-building stations with hot- and cold-storage compartments that let customers see and select their ingredients.