QSR magazine is partnering with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to help lead the conversation in plant-forward menu innovation, particularly in the fast-casual restaurant industry.

QSR and the CIA have collaborated to create the QSR-CIA Plant-Forward Fast Casual Watch List, an in-depth report highlighting the leading fast-casual brands with a commitment to plant-forward menu innovation. Featuring well-known fast-casual players as well as smaller emerging brands, the Watch List shines a spotlight on restaurant concepts that are working to make plant-based ingredients—such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins—the stars of the menu.

“I have no doubt that the future of restaurant menu innovation will be more plant-forward,” says Sam Oches, editorial director of QSR publisher Food News Media. “The fast-casual industry in particular has a great opportunity to take plant-based eating mainstream, and we believe the brands on our Watch List are best positioned to do just that.”

The Watch List, which published in QSR’s May issue, pairs QSRs deep expertise of the fast-casual restaurant industry with the CIA’s leadership in culinary innovation and education. CIA experts vetted the Watch List with an approach inspired by its industry-leading Menus of Change that places an emphasis on menus significantly elevating plants while remaining accessible and creative.

“As our industry’s customer preferences increasingly arc toward what we might think of as ‘deliciousness 2.0’—marked by a greater embrace of health, sustainability, and more plant-rich food choices—we are delighted to team up with QSR to highlight the incredible energy and diversity in the fast-casual sector around advancing plant-forward menus,” says Greg Drescher, CIA vice president of strategic initiatives. “Whether one is a flexitarian or a vegetarian, an omnivore or a vegan, there has never been more choice for those seeking these next-generation flavors.”

As part of the partnership, Oches will moderate panels of fast-casual leaders at two of the CIA’s prestigious industry events that focus on healthy, sustainable foodservice operations: the Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit (May 1–3 in Napa, California) and Menus of Change (June 18–20 in Hyde Park, New York). The panel at the Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit will feature Tender Greens cofounder Erik Oberholtzer, Chaia Tacos cofounder and principal Bettina Stern, HipCityVeg founder and CEO Nicole Marquis, and former Veggie Grill CEO Greg Dollarhyde.

QSR will also host two Fast Casual Meet Ups in conjunction with the CIA events. The San Francisco Fast Casual Meet Up occurred April 30 prior to the Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit, while the New York Fast Casual Meet Up will be June 20, at the conclusion of Menus of Change.

“Fast-casual leaders are eager to learn from one another and keep ahead of industry trends,” Oches says. “By aligning these Meet Ups with the CIA’s exciting events, we hope to create a platform for more industry professionals to connect with each other and learn about ways they can enhance their businesses—particularly with plant-forward menu innovation.”

For more information on the CIA’s Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit, click here

Fast Casual, News