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A generation of conscious diners is seeking out vegan treats and plant based desserts. For restaurant operators, shifting to plant-based ‘cash-cows’ not only makes economic sense, but it has never been easier. 

This winter be sure to have at least two vegan desserts with massive profit margins on the menu to increase ticket sizes and improve your bottom line.

Why Traditional Desserts Are Not Profitable

Desserts are usually not very profitable for restaurants.

Groups share fewer desserts than their headcount and stay seated for longer periods per dish. They often take more time to consume a small sundae than the whole preceding meal, effectively reducing turnover for operators. 

Wonderful desserts also require quality ingredients that inevitably cost more. The price that can reasonably be charged for a dessert is, however, limited. And if a restaurant is making its own pastries, the wages of a specialized pastry chef and modern equipment start to add up. 

In fact, most restaurants don’t realize how unprofitable their desserts are as they frequently overlook long prep hours and labor costs. 

Vegan Desserts Trend Takes Off

The growing health trend, including vegan and plant-based alternatives, will drive dessert profits up. 

In 2020, Kimpton showed that 47% of chefs saw vegan options as the hottest upcoming dessert trend. Those predictions held true, and in the past two years the number of plant based menu items in US restaurants has increased by 1,320%, including desserts.

The global market for vegan desserts is growing at a rate of 10.1% per year, and in 2019 raked in $2.77 billion. Cakes and pastries are the leading segment, covering 25% of vegan dessert sales, followed closely by frozen desserts.

The demand for vegan chocolate, for example, has been rising steadily for years. Interestingly, web searches for vegan chocolate spike between October and December just in time for the holiday season – *wink wink* 

This means new opportunities for restaurants to align with consumer trends and increase profits in the process. But why do consumers want plant based desserts? 

Conscious Consumers Drive the Demand for Vegan Desserts

Consumer demand for vegan desserts is driven by a growing awareness of the impact food has on individual and environmental well-being. From clean-label products to thoughtful waste management, consumers are now aligning their money with their values.

In 2018, 25% of Americans aged 25-34 defined themselves as vegetarian or vegan. That’s a quarter of the core working population, who are also actively implementing these values into their family lives.

Many choose the vegan lifestyle, in part, due to personal dietary necessities. Nearly 75% of the global population is lactose intolerant and 2% of children are allergic to eggs. The obesity epidemic and high cholesterol levels have also spurred a demand for simpler treats with less sugar and fat. 

From an ethical perspective, the environmental impact and cruelty involved in the mass production of dairy, eggs, sugar, and oils/fats is leading consumers to seek out alternatives. 

Covid-19 created a momentary hiatus in this trend as overall anxiety sparked a craving for comfort food. But the reduction in physical activity and increasingly accessible fast-food delivery took a toll on general health and tastes are making a healthy rebound.

Consumers emerging from lockdowns are now looking for healthy food even when at a restaurant. 2021 has been called the year of ‘The Detox’. Diners want cruelty-free, eco-friendly, locally-sourced, plant-based food, from appetizers to dessert. 

Alternatives Galore - Food Producers Meet Vegan Demand

Food producers rose to the challenge and now offer all the alternatives a restaurant needs to make plant based desserts. Alternatives to cream, butter, eggs, sugar, honey and even grain flour now exist with the right texture, taste and visual aesthetic. Importantly, they now come at a price suitable for mass market scale. 

Although plant based and locally sourced items may by-step some supply chain disruptions, they are not immune. Caterers and restaurants incorporating vegan dishes are initially overwhelmed by the demand

That’s why it is important to set up a trustworthy line of supply. Cheetah, for example, consistently delivers a wide range of specialty fruits, nutritional products and plant based alternatives like non-dairy whip, plant-based butter, and egg substitutes to over 3,000 restaurants in Greater San Francisco. 

Simple Ingredients and Superfoods for Super-Profits

But there is no need to go crazy with alternatives. Clean-label advocates would say ‘the less complex alternatives – the better’ since processed vegan food is not always healthy

Simpler desserts based on organic fruit, nutrient-rich superfoods and vegan sweeteners will do the trick just as well. And because superfoods have an increased perceived value to diners, when added to desserts with low food costs, profits can soar. 

Consumers are willing to pay up to 40% more for plant based options, and 75% more for simple clean label ingredients. Be it a grain-free granola, passion-fruit whip or chocolate-chip avocado doughnut – the opportunities are endless. 

For example, many chefs use carob, agave and sweet potatoes as sweeteners in desserts. Flour derived from chickpeas, bananas, apples, chia, or hemp allows bakers to create pastries that are gluten free, high in fibre and protein, and low in glucose. 

Consider why vegan smoothie bowls and chia puddings are so popular. With one or two rare ingredients, like raw cacao, coconut jelly or medicinal mushrooms, the simple but healthy dessert box is checked. By adding a superfood, like matcha, maca or turmeric, for an added price, an indulgent dessert is now perceived as a healthy boost. 

Cookies and cakes can be very profitable because they are created in batches but sold in individual portions. With less prep per serving and the option to charge a premium for a superfood upgrade or alcoholic enhancement, these types of plant based desserts serve the needs of diners and restaurants alike. 

To take profits to the next level, some smart restaurants are bringing back the cafe gourmand style. Making dessert deals a combo of 2-3 vegan tasters, accompanied by coffee or an aperitif, can achieve ultra-high profit margins. 

Healthy Dessert Recipe from Cheetah’s Head Chef

Try out this recipe for Baked Apple & Peach Frozen Yogurt developed by Cheetah’s head chef.

Using ingredients from Cheetah, and a suggested price per serving of $11.70, this healthy dessert has a $9.59 profit per serving (18% food cost), before overhead. 

  Ingredients – Baked Apples

  • Rob’s Red Mill Granola – 3 Count –110858
  • Sunglow Butter Blend – 1/4 cup –103483
  • Cinnamon – 1 Tbsp. –110926
  • Maple Syrup – 1/4 cup –110854
  • Apple Cider – 1/2 cup –122752
  • Water –  1/2 cup

3) Place Apples in a greased hotel pan, leaving a little space between each one 

4) Combine Coconut Oil, Syrup, 5 Spice in a bowl. Divide Granola evenly among Apples, pressing mixture into each core with a spoon.

5) Add Water and Apple Cider to pan. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, basting apples with liquid every 5-10 minutes. Apples should be fork-tender when done.

Ingredients – Peach Frozen Yogurt

  • Frozen Peaches – 1.5 lbs. –112333
  • Honey – 4 Tbsp. –110779
  • Plain Yogurt, Whole – 1 Cup –109393
  • Lemon Juice – 1 Tbsp. –110599

  Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to food processor. Mix until creamy – about 5 minutes

  2. Serve immediately or transfer to air tight container and freeze

Yield- 12 Servings

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