(Nov. 14) The next trendy restaurant concept may not be an all-you-can-eat fresh produce buffet, but making fruit and vegetables the easy choice on restaurant menus is one of the goals of a new invitation-only event for foodservice industry executives.

Scheduled for July 23, the 5 a Day Foodservice Summit is sponsored by the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del., and the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.

The event will be a lead-in to the PMA Foodservice Conference, Tours and Expo in Monterey, Calif.

First announced at the recent PMA Fresh Summit in Orlando, the event will gather executive chefs and menu developers, fruit and vegetable grower-shippers and processors, commodity boards and associations to advance best practices in meeting the fruit and vegetable needs of consumers in foodservice operations, said Lori Baer, director of public relations for PBH.

“It is a time to embrace of the idea of getting more fruits and vegetables on the menu and using the 5 a Day program to elevate the message,” Baer said.

PBH president Elizabeth Pivonka said in a news release that one out of every four meals is eaten away from home. She said that points out the need for a broader offering of fruits and vegetables on the foodservice menus.

“The 5 a Day Foodservice Summit will bring together restaurant menu developers and fruit and vegetable marketers in an interactive, solution-focused way,” she said.

Baer said attendees would be among the first to hear results of PBH-commissioned fruit and vegetable behavior research of consumers at foodservice operations. The research is being sponsored by the Produce Marketing Association and conducted by The Hale Group Ltd., a foodservice management consulting firm based in a Danvers, Mass.

The research will be published after the summit.

“The key thing here is that we see foodservice as a huge untapped opportunity,” said Bryan Silbermann, president of PMA.
He said recent fresh produce gains in quick-service restaurants only hint at the massive potential that exists in getting more produce on the menu.

Silbermann said the research would examine menu trends for produce and create benchmarks for evaluation of produce use.
Even more important, he said the research would facilitate discussion on opportunities and barriers with menu development executives from foodservice chains at the event.

He said restaurants have discovered several good reasons to increase work with fresh produce — including both profit motive and brand image.

What’s more, Silbermann said the fresh produce industry is equally excited to work with foodservice operators.
In addition to PMA’s support, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is a Platinum Sponsor of the event. Other organizations that have signed on to sponsor the 5 a Day Foodservice Summit include Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc.; Dole Food Co. Inc.; Litehouse Inc.; L&M Cos.; Nation’s Restaurant News; Sunkist Growers Inc.; and Welch’s.
“Del Monte is interested in expanding the acceptance of fresh fruits and fresh cut fruits through the foodservice segment, and getting out chefs and people who make decisions on menu development is a critical thing,” said John Loughridge, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla.

Baer said the event would help menu planners maximize the impact of fruits and vegetables.

“The environment needs to be adapted so the healthy choice is the easy choice,” she said.