6 Reasons to Put More Beans on Your Restaurant Menu
As our #EatForTomorrow campaign continues with its third theme, ‘Eat More Plants’, we’re exploring why pulses like beans, peas and lentils will form an incredibly important part of building a better food future – both for your restaurant and for the planet.
Read on for six good reasons why your menus should incorporate beans and pulses.
Varied and versatile
There is a wealth of beans, peas and legumes available around the world, from runner beans to edamame, chickpeas to black-eyed peas, cannellini beans to lentils and soy to peanuts. In fact, there are an estimated 40,000 varieties of common bean, with incredible variety in colour, texture and flavour.
For your restaurant: Boost creativity in your kitchen by encouraging your chefs to move past the traditional ‘centre plate’ proteins of meat and fish. In everything from dips and nibbles through starters, sides, mains and, yes, even desserts, beans and pulses can play a starring or supporting role.
For the world: Everyone deserves a diet that is interesting and varied – in fact, the more diversity in our diets, the better for our bodies and for the planet.
Beans and pulses offer some of the cheapest options out there when it comes to protein.
For your restaurant: In a time when both businesses and customers are trying to save money, plant-based proteins can be very useful in creating budget-friendly dishes for your menu. With a long shelf life, they’re also great for ordering in bulk.
For the world: In more global terms, introducing a more widespread use of beans and pulses across our worldwide food systems is vital for feeding a growing population, providing far more calories for human consumption per square metre of land.
Beans and pulses are low in fat but rich in protein, fibre and slow-release carbohydrates, as well as a wealth of vitamins and minerals, making them a fantastic addition to any health-conscious menu. They also play a valuable role in digestive health.
For your restaurant: At The SRA, we believe that restaurants have a role to play in providing nutritious food, without sacrificing flavour or quality. This is reflected in the ‘Feed People Well’ section of the Food Made Good Framework.
For the world: Beans are vital for providing a growing population with healthy and nourishing options. Already, there are 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone who depend on beans as a primary staple, and about 400 million people globally.
While beans might not sound particularly trendy, they tick a lot of boxes when it comes to modern consumer desires and dietary restrictions. Think about it: they’re vegan, gluten- and lactose-free, diabetic-friendly, suitable for those on low cholesterol diets and very low in fat. Plus, with more customers aware of looking after their microbiomes, gut-friendly foods like beans and legumes are coming to the forefront.
For your restaurant: The more dietary boxes you can tick, the higher your chances are of satisfying customer wants and needs – and landing bigger group bookings.
For the world: Including more beans and pulses in global diets can help to prevent non-communicable diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Easy to grow in any climate
Freezing aside, beans and pulses can be grown in almost any type of climate. As we see the climate crisis continue to wreak a wider impact, this will become even more important.
For your restaurant: With extreme weather events becoming more commonplace and the world’s temperature rises, building your menu around stable, resilient crops like beans and pulses is a smart move. Because they can be grown practically anywhere, it’s also possible to incorporate them into a locally-led sourcing policy.
For the world: Combined with the effects of the climate crisis, our growing global population poses a major challenge when it comes to feeding the world in the future. Beans and pulses can (and must) play a critical role in providing food security, even in areas threatened by drought, floods and heatwaves.
Growing beans is actually good for the environment! Beans are a very low-impact source of protein, releasing 90% fewer harmful greenhouse gases than some animal proteins and requiring little land and water. They’re also ‘nitrogen fixers’: this means that they add valuable nutrients (like nitrogen) to the soil around them through the mechanisms of a symbiotic relationship with the soil bacteria. In fact, many regenerative farms plant legumes like beans as ‘cover crops’ between successive production crops, since they nourish the soil to the benefit of other plant species and reduce or eliminate reliance on nitrogen fertilisers.
For your restaurant: Customers are increasingly looking for sustainable, planet-friendly options when dining out. Designing a low-impact menu is a great way to meet this demand; make sure to shout about it on your website, your social media and even your menu itself.
For the world: The hospitality industry has an enormous role to play in helping to reshape our world food systems. Farmers cannot commit to grow what we’re not prepared to buy – but if more restaurants begin to showcase beans and pulses as a regular feature on their menus, this will have a very real effect on our agricultural systems.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association is proud to be a member of the Bean Coalition, “a multi-sector network collaborating to spread awareness, increase momentum and adopt localised engagement strategies to achieve goals.” The Beans is How campaign is run in collaboration with the SDG2 Advocacy Hub and Good Food For All.
Targeting restaurants, caterers, cafés, schools and other food providers, the #beansonthemenu movement is designed to increase the number of bean dishes on menus around the world. Chefs and hospitality businesses can play a unique and powerful role in showcasing the versatility of beans and making them a desirable food choice, influencing dietary trends and behaviours towards affordable, healthy, plant-forward diets. Does your restaurant make creative use of beans and other pulses on menus? Join the challenge here!
Beans and other legumes align with all three of the pillars of our Food Made Good Framework: Sourcing, Society and Environment. If you’re ready to showcase your sustainable menus to the wider world, it’s time to sign up for the Food Made Good Standard – the only global sustainability accreditation designed just for the hospitality industry.
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