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Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update
Healthy Tips and Recipes for Institutions

Volume V, Number 3   Summer 1997  


By Cathy Schmelter

The following excerpt is from an article based on interviews with the Marriott Foodservice staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Cathy Schmelter is a Dietetic Intern at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She wrote this article while doing a week-long internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group.

To ensure success, let your customers know that vegetarian items are available. Explain the benefits of selecting these items. Some ideas for introducing veggie items include:

More Creative Ways to Offer Vegetarian Items:

Stop Light System: Red, Yellow, and Green. Color schemes (stickers or icons) that identify vegetarian items for customers. For example:

Sandwich Area:
Offer grilled vegetarian sandwiches or a vegetarian pita sandwich.

Chili Bar:
Set up an all you can eat chili bar. Offer one beef, one turkey, and one vegetarian chili to induce customers to try the vegetarian item. The customers will pay for the bar so you won’t have to give away free samples.

Combo Meal:
Set up a combo meal that includes a vegetarian item. An example may be a vegetarian pita with soup and a drink. Offer the pita combo meal at a set price. Offer a 10% discount for purchasing the entire meal or a 5% discount for purchasing the sandwich only.

Offer a buffet of vegetarian items which include four main items (vegetarian lasagna, vegetable chow mein, lentil casserole, and vegetable burritos). Offer two soups (vegetarian vegetable and vegetarian chili), two vegetables (corn and curried vegetables), potatoes and rice, salad, fruit, bread, and drink. All for a set price. Or make it a theme: Italian, Mexican or Chinese.

Testing New Items:
To test new items, you may want to start with a recipe file of vegetarian items. For example, out of 30 items, select 20 to test. Test the items over a period of one month. In week one, test five recipes, week two test five, and weeks three and four test five. The chef should prepare the items, then the staff should taste them to determine if they should be offered or not. After the items have been selected, the recipes should be standardized for your organization.

Determine the number of servings to offer. Is there a small or large demand for these items? Also determine the selling price. Do you want the items to be lower in price to entice customers to buy them, or do you want to provide them as a specialty item that costs more?

Some of the big sellers at the hospital we surveyed include: vegetarian chili, fresh vegetable pasta, veggie stuffed peppers, veggie stir-fry, veggie lo mein, broccoli cheesebake, veggie pizza, vegetarian lasagna, veggie burgers, eggplant Parmesan, and salads. Of course the items sold vary from organization to organization.

This organization has not introduced many vegetarian items that have not sold well. The only item that did poorly was a 3-bean chili which was offered three years ago and has not been reintroduced.

It is very important to train your staff to be familiar with the ingredients in the vegetarian items. If there is a system for identifying the differences between vegetarian items, (i.e. vegan and non-vegan foods), be sure they know what the differences are.

If you are providing a bar that has vegetarian and non-vegetarian items, make sure that the vegetarian items are kept separate. The vegetarian items should be marked clearly so that staff will not get them confused with the meat items. Separate utensils should be used to serve the vegetarian products.

Tracking Vegetarian Dishes:
It is important to spend time tracking the items to see which are selling well. Make modifications based on both successes and failures. For example, look at the top 20 sales items to see how many of them are vegetarian items.

Plan and Then Work the Plan:
Essentially, to add a new item, determine your market, survey your customers, test items, standardize recipes and then make it available to the customer. Items should be made available for six months. If they are well received, keep them in the system. Delete the items not well received.

Excerpts from the Spring 1997 Issue:

For the complete issue, please subscribe to the magazine. To subscribe to Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update, click here and check "Add 1 year Foodservice Update for $10 more  on whatever subscription form you choose.

Converted to HTML by Stephanie Schueler

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