There’s been a lot of talk this summer about increasing produce consumption in restaurants.

Educate consumers about produce

Ashley Bentley
Foodservice Focus

But in order for more produce consumption to catch on, restaurants are going to have to be careful about how they do things.

On a recent trip to Idaho (guess what vegetable I’m going to talk about) I passed by a new little restaurant I had heard about because of its dispute with the Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission. The restaurant, now known as Boise Fry Co., was formerly Idaho Fry Co., but had to change because of a trademark infringement pointed out by the commission.

So, I had to try it.

The restaurant’s slogan, “Burgers on the side,” intrigued me. How would fries fare as a main course?

I walked inside and was immediately faced with decisions about my potato main dish. First, I got to choose the potato my fries would be made out of. The choices varied by time in the season, and because it was late August, they were limited to five types of potatoes.

Then, I chose the cut of fry I wanted from another handful of options. I threw a burger on my order and looked around while I waited.

When I got my fries, I realized I also needed to choose my own salt — there were about seven seasoning options — and my dipping sauce. This was no McDonalds, and I was excited about customizing my fry order.

But, when it came to doing what one does with fries — eating them — I was slightly disappointed. The Cajun salt I chose only coated about three fries in the bag and the rest had not quite enough flavor. And the sauce I chose to take home probably wasn’t the right one to mix with this flavor/type of potato.

On the flip side, when we order a burger, we know how we like it cooked and what we want on it. We’ve been trained to customize our burgers our entire lives. Make produce the entree and it’s a different story.

I had no idea how to customize my fries to make them taste like I wanted them, and I write about produce for a living. Imagine the average consumer with a more complicated vegetable than a potato.

If produce is really going to make a name for itself as a center-of-the-plate menu item, consumer education is a huge part of that.

Places like Boise Fry Co. are part of the answer, but they need to ensure that their customers are getting produce they’ll like. Maybe keep the salt choices, but let a “salt pro” employee mete out the portions and do the coating.

If the fry-oriented place can’t provide fries that beat out the ones the burger-oriented place offers, consumers are going to stick with what they know and not broaden their produce horizons.

The same goes for any produce item trying to stand on its own at the center of the plate.

E-mail abentley@thepacker.com

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