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Potatoes & Your Menu

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Michael Foods Online CE Course (1 hour CE)

Michael Foods, Inc. will maintain verification of your attendance. Please fill out the following information. Upon completion of this course, a certificate of completion will be available for download.


Potatoes are a perennial and versatile favorite. They are a cornerstone of growing demand for comfort food, breakfast-all-day, enticing bowls, and grab ’n’ go fare. This course examines the nutritional benefits of potatoes, consumer sentiment, culinary concepts, and foodservice menu trends that help an operator achieve high levels of success with economical ingredients.


Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify potato-related consumer trends.
  • Describe the nutritional benefits of potatoes.
  • Recommend at least three ways to apply trend findings to a foodservice menu.

Potatoes: A Perennial Favorite

Potatoes are “the most commonly consumed vegetable in the United States,” according to WebMD (2020). The average American consumes 49.2 pounds every year, they add.

A survey of food order data from DoorDash places potato ingredients in two of the top five most-ordered foods (Foodservice Director magazine, Jun 1, 2022):

  • French fries #1
  • Hash browns #4.

Potatoes pervade foodservice menus across segments, as noted by Datassential figures reported for Potatoes USA (2021). They’re on the menu in:

  • 3% of fine dining
  • 7% of casual
  • 9% of midscale
  • 9% of quick-serve restaurants
  • 7% of fast casual.

Among consumers, 76% report they are eating more potatoes as of 2022 (Potatoes USA, 2022). Potatoes are Americans’ favorite side dish when eating out (Potatoes USA, 2022). “Any potato option” ranks as the number-one side dish both for dining in and takeout.

In foodservice, by daypart, the heaviest concentration is breakfast (77.8%), followed by dinner (65.2%) and lunch (38.9%). They’re also a major player in all-day menus (77.9%), according to Potatoes USA.

Top potato dishes on foodservice menus are:

  • French fries (on 71% of menus)
  • Mashed potatoes (on 27.9%)
  • Potato salad (on 17.7%)
  • Hash browns (on 16.3%)
  • Baked potato (on 13.8%)
    (Potatoes USA, 2021).

Hash browns, a breakfast favorite, have seen an annual growth rate of 27.9% in overall sales (consumer plus foodservice), explains Tastewise (2022). Its most popular pairings are eggs, bacon, sausage, and cheese.

The Comfort Food Trend

The pandemic lifestyle spurred a trend that’s always influenced eating choices: comfort food. Consumers enjoy the experience of eating something that triggers nostalgic good feelings. While which foods trigger good feelings depends on personal experience and preference, there are patterns.

For example, White (2020) states that “potatoes were the 1970s original ‘comfort food.’” Futterman (2021) lists top comfort foods as: grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, pizza, and spaghetti and meatballs. SWNS Digital (2021) cites the most-consumed comfort foods (in order of popularity) as: pizza, hamburgers, ice cream, French fries, macaroni and cheese, potato chips, cookies, chocolate, cereal fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, mashed potatoes, bread, hot dogs, and pancakes.

At least 40% of consumers describe comfort food as something they ate growing up (Mondelez, 2022). Blake (July 2021) reports that consumers were eating comfort foods an average of five times per week during the pandemic—and the trend continues.

According to Mondelez (2022), “This trend for nostalgic eats and treats is showing no signs of slowing.” In fact, 7 out of 10 consumers say they are “’extremely or very likely’ to purchase a nostalgic food or beverage” (Mondelez, 2022).

In its 2022 Culinary Forecast, the National Restaurant Association ranks comfort foods as the third “hottest culinary trend,” after sustainability and plant-based foods (National Restaurant Association , Nov 15, 2021). When choosing a restaurant for dining in or takeout, more than three out of 10 consumers say the availability of comfort food would swing their choice (Blake, July 2021).

Consumers are also seeking out new twists on traditional comfort foods, reports Shoup (2021). They’re interested in new flavors, such as new types of peppers, as well as health benefits of foods, especially those that promote immune health.

Breakfast Trends

Almost one in 4 consumers procures breakfast from a foodservice operation, reports Technomic (Jul 26, 2022). The breakfast trend is growing this year (Thorn, 2022), who says breakfast “does appear to be Americans’ favorite meal,” as evidenced by customer reviews on popular review websites.

However, breakfast is not just for morning hours; it has shifted to an “all-day affair” (Thorn, 2022). Snacking is on the rise, and the blurring of dayparts continues.  Among young Gen Z consumers (ages 20-25) in particular, three meals per day is not the norm for about half (Sloan, 2022).

As for off-premises foodservice, “breakfast is the fastest growing to-go occasion,” reports Foodservice Director magazine (Jun 1, 2022), jumping three times higher over the past year.

About three in 10 consumers are looking for foodservice establishments to add spicier ingredients and flavors to breakfast fare, reports FoodService Director (Jan 18, 2022). Consumers are flocking to value meals at breakfast, too, mentions Technomic (Mar 9, 2022).

Source: USDA, 2022

The Appeal of Potato Nutrition

Many consumers are unaware of potatoes as a source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. For example, Potatoes USA (July 27, 2022) notes that one 5.3-oz potato has more potassium than a medium banana.

In addition, a potato provides calcium, magnesium, and folate. (WebMD, 2020). “A potassium rich diet can help decrease blood pressure, protecting the heart and reducing the risk of stroke,” they add.

In addition to these nutrients, potatoes are rich sources of plant-based antioxidants, which minimize cell damage from free radicals and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer (WebMD). Antioxidants are most concentrated in the skins, they note.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes have similar nutrient profiles, except that sweet potatoes are much higher in vitamin A. As Cleveland Clinic (2022) states it, “Neither spud is a dud.” Take a look at the chart to see how the two medium-sized potatoes compare.

Fiber in Potatoes

Fiber in potatoes can contribute to satiety, while also “keeping cholesterol and blood sugar levels in check,” says WebMD (2020). About half the fiber is in the skin (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). Some potato fiber is in the form of resistant starch, which is a type of fiber that is soluble and fermentable. This type of fiber cannot be broken down by enzymes in the gut, but it can be fermented by beneficial bacteria in the colon.

“Fermentable” means it acts as food for gut bacteria, which makes it a prebiotic—a food that promotes growth of beneficial gut bacteria (Harvard Nutrition Source, 2022). They say that type of fiber “adds bulk to stools but has minimal laxative effect.” Resistant starch can also prevent or treat irritable bowel syndrome and constipation (WebMD, 2020). It may also “help to normalize blood sugar and cholesterol levels (Harvard Nutrition Source). It is estimated that the average American consumes less than 6 gm resistant starch per day (DeMartino et al., 2022).

DeMartino et al. note that “resistant starch has been shown to favorably affect the health of the gut microbiome.” Beneficial gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate. “… These are associated with reductions in risk of cardiometabolic disease, some bowel disorders, and certain cancers,” explain DeMartino et al. Because of this, they note that increasing intake of fermentable carbohydrates is a “key strategy” to improve health. They explain that consuming resistant starch increases healthful butyrate concentrations.

In their research, DeMartino et al. compared the impact of including one potato side dish (2-2.9 gm resistant starch) to participants daily, comparing it with the impact of one refined grain dish. They found that consuming a potato dish daily slightly increased diversity of gut bacteria and led to higher levels of certain bacteria that produce butyrate. Thus, the simple substitution of one serving of potato for refined grain has “measurable impact on the gut microbiota,” they concluded.

Potatoes for Gluten-Free Dining

As a gluten-free food, potatoes offer menu versatility for gluten-free dining. About 3 in 10 Americans choose to eat gluten-free. Just over one-third of consumers say they would buy gluten-free products, and the numbers are higher among younger demographics (Stewart, 2021). This figure includes about 1% of the population who has celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that must be managed by strict avoidance of dietary gluten.

Up to 13% of people may have non-celiac gluten or wheat sensitivity, adds Stewart—a “real” condition that is not fully understood.  “Symptoms overlap with irritable bowel syndrome and include gastrointestinal discomfort, muscle aches and pains, and rashes, as well as foggy brain— described as an inability to concentrate—fatigue, and headache,” she explains.

Gluten-free eating has captured the interest of consumers far beyond just those who have celiac disease, as “health-conscious consumers are showing increased interest in gluten-free products as a part of a broader healthy eating regime,” according to Srivastava (2021).

A challenge for consumers and food manufacturers alike, though, is nutritional quality of gluten-free ingredients. “Studies show that some gluten-free foods have inferior nutritional profiles compared to their standard counterparts. Following a gluten-free diet may increase the risk of nutritional deficiency, which could ultimately lead to health complications” (Srivastava 2021).

Gluten-free fare in foodservice establishments is predicted to grow 9% over the next five years, says Global Market Insights (2022).

Food Management (2022) underscores the importance of accommodating college and university students who “are following a gluten-free diet out of medical necessity or choice.” Availability of gluten-free dining options are a factor for young people as they choose a school, and 13% of Gen Z (ages 20-25) avoid gluten, reports Food Management.

There is a challenge to sustain adequate variety in gluten-free options, they note. Incorporating naturally gluten-free fruits and vegetables can help. “There is no need for special handling, except to be isolated during the preparation stage from bread, rolls, flour tortillas, flour-based pasta, and other foods that contain gluten.” Preventing cross-contact is an important standard for providing gluten-free menu options, they note.

Potatoes are a whole food that is naturally gluten-free, notes Beyond Celiac (2022). Other examples of gluten-free foods are corn, rice, buckwheat, millet, chickpeas/chickpea flour, and almond flour. The Society for the Study of Celiac (2022) offers gluten-free menu options by meal. Examples using potatoes include:

  • Breakfast: hash browns, home fries
  • Lunch: potatoes - baked, roasted, plain mashed, home fries, or French fries (if gluten free and made in a dedicated fryer).

Culinary Versatility

As a recipe ingredient or menu feature, potatoes offer versatility in aligning with a variety of menu trends.

Range of cuisines: Potatoes are used in a variety of cuisines, according to Potatoes USA (2021), such as African, steakhouse, burger, barbeque, Indian, European, Central & South American, Southern, seafood, and American. This makes them a valuable ingredient for a wide variety of flavors. Some of the fast-growing flavors for the breakfast meal (Technomic, 2021) combine well with potatoes, e.g., Gruyere, parsley, paprika, Moroccan, fennel, tarragon, and ricotta.

Plant-based: For patrons choosing more plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan menu options, potatoes offer an economical staple ingredient. The IFIC 2022 Food and Health Survey indicates that while only 3% of Americans say they are vegetarian, 2% are vegan, and 12% say they are trying to follow a plant-based diet. Potatoes meet other popular food selection criteria identified in the survey, too: “contains fruits or vegetables,” “good source of nutrients,” “good source of fiber.”

Center of the plate: Potatoes adapt well as a center-of-the-plate feature, notes the Idaho Potato Commission (2022), which can be topped with countless variations—eggs, meat, vegetables, cheese, and sauces.

Off-premises: Implementing grab’n’go menu options is a key strategy for increasing sales across all noncommercial foodservice segments, suggest Mondelez (2022). Factors for success are choosing items that travel well, provide convenience and “craveability,” and support back-of-the-house efficiency. “Potatoes lend themselves perfectly to takeout and off-premise dining occasions, holding their flavor, structure and texture for long periods of time,” observes Potatoes USA (2019, Foodservice Solutions).

Culinary Concepts

In foodservice, a number of potato dishes are trending, reports Potatoes USA (2021). For fries, trends include Cajun fries (up 66%), waffles fries (up 20%), curly fries (up 4%), and chili cheese fries (up 3%). Outside of fries, they report growth in tater drums [tots], potato bar concepts, smashed potato chili cheese fries, and breakfast potatoes.

“Frozen potatoes can be combined with eggs and veggies and baked in the oven without pre-boiling or par cooking,” suggest Potatoes USA (Potato Goodness, 2022), which minimizes advance prep and makes them labor-efficient in a foodservice environment.

Mashed potatoes: Mashed potatoes form a base for a variety of add-ins to create unique culinary concepts. For example, Potatoes USA (2019) suggests adding vegetables to make pakora (Indian fritters), mixing in crab and other ingredients to make crab cakes, adding ham and cheese, or folding in ricotta cheese to make potato dumplings.

Food Network (2022) recommends potato add-ins such as mixed herbs, roasted garlic, chipotle, or cheeses (cheddar, gruyere, gouda, mozzarella, goat cheese, Parmesan). Toppings work well on mashed potatoes, too. They mention pickled peppers, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, parsley, dill, chives, chopped scallions, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, and shallots.

For mashed sweet potatoes, Food Network cites add-ins like maple syrup and orange zest, or even mashed banana. There is also the “double potato mash,” a blend of mashed white potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes, they say.

Pizza: Potatoes can play a role in the ongoing quest for interesting pizza toppings, according to chef Tony Gemignani Potatoes USA (Potato Goodness, 2022). He comments, “Potatoes are so diverse and versatile, any chef can incorporate them onto multiple styles of fabulous pizzas.”

Salads: Besides working well for chilled or warm potato salads, roasted or steamed potato slices, dices, or wedges are toppers for a variety of green salads. A classic example is Niçoise salad.

Crumbles: Chorizo crumbles make use of leftover tater drums for a plant-based menu ingredient, suggests Potatoes USA (2019, Foodservice Solutions). “Simply crumbled, tossed in Latin American seasonings and baked, it’s the instant star of tacos, soups, salads, dips and garnishes galore.”

Potato carpaccio: Another concept from Potatoes USA (2019, Foodservice Solutions) is potato carpaccio, which combines cooked, diced potatoes with orange, fennel, and a citrus dressing.

Ceviche: “Central American-inspired ceviche is made with traditional ingredients like peppers, radish, avocado and puffed sorghum, but instead of raw fish, we marinate cooked and diced potato cubes in citrus juices,” says Potatoes USA (2019, Foodservice Solutions).

Hash Brown Concepts

Sandwich base: Hash browns can be formed into a sandwich base for a “spudwich,” which can also work well for gluten-free, notes Potatoes USA (Potato Goodness, 2022).

Hash brown flavor twists: In line with the larger trend for new flavors, hash browns are trending not only with traditional salt and pepper, but also with garlic, jalapeno, Thai pepper, and sumac, accompanied by condiments such as ketchup and salsa (Tastewise, 2022). Food Network (2022) recommends flavor twists with added ingredients such as chorizo, or Vidalia onion and Canadian bacon. “The beauty of hash browns is that the dish can be anything from the rustic simplicity of shredded spuds to a dressed-up potato casserole with fresh veggies,” they comment.

Hash brown cups: Fresh or frozen hash browns mixed with an egg or egg whites can be pressed into muffin tins to form cups, suggests the Idaho Potato Commission (2022). “These are then filled with various toppings, from smoked salmon and crème fraiche to an egg, ham, or bacon mixture and baked off.”

Hash brown crust quiche: This is another trending idea that can be made gluten-free and/or vegetarian if desired. An example of a traditional quiche turned hash brown is the quiche Lorraine with Hash Brown Crust (Today, 2022).

Food Bowls

Potatoes are a popular ingredient for food bowls, such as those that combine potato and egg ingredients for a fun and convenient eating experience. Bowls offer endless variations and can be prepared to order, per a customer’s ingredient preferences. They are trending strong and adapt to global condiments, as well as plant-forward ingredients, notes Cobe (2022). The breakfast bowl trend is up more than 6%, she adds.

“Food bowls succeed because they are the confluence of other marketplace trends, namely convenience and personalization. A typical food bowl concept might have four bases, 10 or 15 toppings, three sauces, and four ‘crunch’ options like nuts or seeds—yielding seemingly endless combinations,” Aramark (2019) explains.

“Food bowls shine because of their portability and way of showcasing international flavors: It’s photographable, Instagram-worthy street food at your fingertips,” according to chef Mike Coble (Aramark, 2019). Food bowls also allow customers to sample each ingredient or mix them up, “making their mark” with each ingredient they choose to include. Customers may choose ingredients based on a variety of factors, including a desire for healthful eating or indulgence, they add. This is consistent with the Gen Z food trend, which emphasizes individuality (Sloan, 2022).

“Food bowls are delicious, fun, and portable, with endless possibilities for customization,” according to  Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN (Amidor, 2021). Bowls “can be cost-effective. Individuals can fill bowls with less-expensive ingredients, or combine a variety of inexpensive ingredients with a more expensive food—think smoked salmon in a breakfast bowl with an egg, a mini bagel, and cream cheese. For restaurants and food companies, these types of combinations enable them to charge a reasonable price point for breakfast bowls while still producing a profit,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND (Amidor, 2021). In addition, bowl concepts “can be customized to meet consumers’ special dietary needs. This is especially helpful for foodservice establishments that serve consumers following various dietary patterns. In these settings, food allergies easily can be managed by separating foods and assembling bowls on a line in front of the customer—of course, cross-contact between utensils still would need to be managed,” she says.

At Chartwells, a school dining service, chefs are focusing on bowl concepts for K12 students (Gingerella, 2022). One of their trending concepts is a Southwestern bowl featuring turkey chorizo, scrambled eggs, home fries, peppers, onions, cheddar cheese and salsa.

Bowls are an example of a meal that can be made gluten-free and that travels and holds well for off-premises dining. They are popular for breakfast but adapt to snacking or any daypart.


Potatoes are popular with American consumers and incorporate well into a variety of culinary styles. Their nutritional profile makes them a valuable ingredient for healthy eating, as well as a nutritious gluten-free ingredient. As a source of resistant starch, potatoes may offer health benefits by providing prebiotics, along with vitamin C, potassium, and other nutrients.

Potatoes can be useful in accommodating key trends in foodservice, including comfort food, grab’n’go, and plant-forward eating. Foodservice operators can adapt potatoes and potato products to a variety of menu needs to meet the tastes and dietary requirements of their customer populations. They also adapt well to versatile bowl concepts, which can allow customers to express their individuality.


Amidor, T (Feb 2021). Breakfast Bowls. Today’s Dietitian.

Aramark (2019). Why The Food Bowl Trend Is Here To Stay.

Beyond Celiac (accessed Jul 28, 2022). Are Potatoes Gluten-Free?

Blake, S. (July 2021). Why the Comeback of Comfort Food Isn’t Slowing Down. FSR.

Cleveland Clinic (Jan. 17, 2022). Potato or Sweet Potato: Which Is Healthier?

Cobe, P (accessed Jul 29, 2022). Menus that Move. FoodService Director.

DeMartino, P. et al. (Feb. 2022). Additional Resistant Starch from One Potato Side Dish per Day Alters the Gut Microbiota but Not Fecal Short-Chain Fatty Acid Concentrations. Nutrients.

Food Management (Jul 21, 2022). Viewpoint: Supporting Gluten-Free Students at Your College Dining Halls.

Food Network (accessed Jul 25, 2022). Best 5 Hash Browns to Bring to the Breakfast Table.

Food Network (accessed Jul 25, 2022). Mix-and-Match Mashed Potatoes.

Food Network (accessed Jul 25, 2022). Must-Try Mashed Potato Recipes.

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Global Market Insights (Mar 1, 2022). The Gluten Free Food Market to exceed USD 17.05 billion by 2027.

Harvard Nutrition Source (accessed July 27, 2022). Fiber.

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Mondelez (2022). 6 Trends Changing and Challenging the Foodservice Status Quo in 2022.

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Potatoes USA (2022). 2022 Consumer Attitudes and Usage.

Potatoes USA (2021). Foodservice Potato Menu Trends.

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Potatoes USA (accessed July 29, 2022). Potato Goodness.

Potatoes USA (accessed July 27, 2022). Your Guide to Potato Nutrition.

SWNS Digital (Sep 6, 2021). Average American has gained at least six pounds eating these classic comfort foods.

Shoup, ME (Nov 9, 2021). Comfort Food with a Twist. Food Navigator.

Sloan, AE (Mar 1, 2022). Taking the Pulse of Teens and Young Adults. Food Technology Magazine.

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Technomic (Mar 9, 2022). New State of the Menu report from Technomic spotlights trends to come in 2022.

Technomic (Jul 26, 2022). Technomic reveals global opportunities for breakfast.

Thorn, B. Breakfast returns to restaurants with healthy, spicy and indulgent options. Nation’s Restaurant News.

Today (Apr 22, 2022). Quiche Lorraine with Hash Brown Crust.

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White, A (May 30, 2020). A Brief History of Comfort Food. JSTOR Daily.

Course Review Questions

Select the correct answer for each question.

1. This potato dish is on foodservice menus more than twice as often as all other potato dishes.

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Course Review Questions

Select the correct answer for each question.

2. According to the National Restaurant Association, the third hottest culinary trend is ________.

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Course Review Questions

Select the correct answer for each question.

3. Sweet potatoes are much higher in this nutrient than white potatoes.

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Course Review Questions

Select the correct answer for each question.

4. This potato concept offers convenience and personalization and is consistent with Gen Z food trends.

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Course complete!
Your Score: out of 4 correct.