Spring is here and foodservice operators across the country are putting winter behind them and adapting their menus for the changing season. And it looks like Middle Eastern flavours, Insta-worthy products and plant-based innovation is the order of the day.
First up is Bill’s. The restaurant chain’s spring menu was launched on 3rd March and is notable for the expansion of its range of plant-based dishes, with more than half of the new menu items suitable for either vegans or vegetarians. The renewed focus on plant-based food comes after Bill’s enjoyed a 162% increase in sales of vegan dishes last year, as well as recently launching an affordable vegan menu for Veganuary 2020.
"This season brings with it wild garlic, carrots, rhubarb, asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli and the list of lovely fresh vegetables goes on," the company said in a blog post. "Our team of chefs have really flexed their creative muscles, to come up with a fantastic new menu."
Two new dishes have been added to its list of starters, including a Pea Wild Garlic Hummus on Toasted Sourdough (topped with courgette, radish, mixed seeds and pea shoot salad). Sourdough bread, which has witnessed strong sales in the last few years, also makes an appearance on the lunch menu with an updated recipe of its popular Fish Finger Sandwich.
One particularly notable plant-based addition is the Truffalos option of vegan truffled buffalo “wings”, which customers can enjoy with a vegan cheese dip and celery. Anyone following a strict plant-based diet can then follow that with the new Beetroot Wellington (butternut squash and beetroot inside a wellington, served with carrot puree and seasonal greens) for main course and then a Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart (served with coconut ice cream) for dessert.
Next up: Leon. "This March you’re joining us on an adventure in flavour that’ll remind you how good plants can taste when they’re grown well, prepared simply and eaten seasonally," the fast food company said.
Leon is aiming to tap into the growing popularity of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine with two salads taking inspiration from the region. These also include a number of ingredients and colours most synonymous with Spring, such as its Turmeric Cauliflower Salad (which is inspired by Ayurvedic food principles) and Chicken Shawarma Salad.
Following its launch in Sainsbury’s, Leon is also stepping up its focus on kefir by making the fermented dairy drink available in all its restaurants nationwide. Those customers concerned with their gut health can now purchase Mango & Passionfruit Kefir Shot for the first time, with Leon no doubt spurred on by the phenomenal growth of kefir in the last couple of years (Tesco, for example, has witnessed a 400% increase in demand for kefir products over the last 18 months).
Meanwhile, over at Costa Coffee, the coffee shop chain is seeking to tap into a number of trends recently covered by Food Spark. Among these are offering customers more dairy alternatives (Alpro Oat Milk is now on the menu for an extra 45p), products fit for Instagram (Costa Coffee Chocolate & Caramel muffin made with Rolo from £2.25) and ruby chocolate (Ruby Cocoa Hot Chocolate will now feature on Costa menus nationwide from £3.35 after a successful trial).
The lunch menu also now features the Cumberland Sausage & Caramelised Onion Toastie, New York Deli Pastrami & Emmental Toastie and the Three Cheese & Chutney Toastie.
Eric Tavoukdjian, commercial marketing director at Costa Coffee said: “We’re passionate about putting customer experience at the heart of what we do, so this spring, we’re thrilled to introduce a limited-edition menu to excite and delight. We’re happy to bring back some amazing returning favourites as well as introducing new and exciting innovations.”