Case Study: Zoës Kitchen showcases cross-utilization of lentils as a plant-forward anchor in Mediterranean dishes

December 2021

Lentils are increasingly prominent on Mediterranean fast-casual menus, as they are an approachable choice for both consumers looking for filling, plant-forward menu options and operators who need versatile ingredients that can soak up flavor and provide cross-utilization in just one SKU. The Mediterranean fast-casual chain Zoës Kitchen features lentils in several menu applications that are cost-effective as well as big on flavor and nutritional value.

Here is how Zoës Kitchen menus lentils:

  • Mediterranean Lentil soup, made with green lentils, tomatoes, and carrots and served with pita bread. A bowl-sized serving of soup costs $5.99 and contains 9 grams of fiber and 19 grams of protein. The Mediterranean Lentil soup is vegan and can be ordered gluten-free by omitting the pita bread.
  • Power Grain bowl, served warm with lentils, quinoa, farro, and rice, dressed with tzatziki, harissa, tomato relish, cucumbers, and fresh dill. As is, the bowl costs $9.69 and has 13 grams of protein. Consumers can add either baked falafel or a meat-based protein at additional cost.
  • An Avocado Lentil salad debuted in January 2020 as a limited-time offer (LTO) [1], featuring romaine and arugula topped with lentils, avocado, hard-boiled egg, crispy chickpeas, cucumber, tzatziki, and Lemon Herb Tahini dressing.

With a wide range of plant-forward menu items, Zoës Kitchen proves that lentils appeal to consumers’ palates while providing operator perks.

Lentil soup is a much-loved and familiar application that consumers say they want to see on restaurant menus. In fact, it’s the top lentil-based application that consumers say they are interested in, with half of those surveyed saying that they want to see lentil soup on menus [2].

The Mediterranean Lentil soup demonstrates lentils’ capacity to meet consumer demand for plant-forward options that help them feel fuller for longer. Lentils contain 8 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein in just one half-cup serving. Soups and stews are also beneficial from an operational perspective, as they provide consistency and hold well on hot lines for extended periods.

The Power Grain bowl stands as a stellar example of the power bowl category that spans restaurant segments. In this menu offering, the bowl is flavored with harissa, a smoky, spicy chile paste that is on the rise on Mediterranean menus. When paired with lentils, harissa has seen 204% growth on menus in the past four years [3]. Harissa also indexes high in appeal to Millennial consumers, who are more likely to love or like globally inspired flavors [4]. Power bowls can showcase the versatility of ingredients like lentils while giving consumers layers of robust flavor and the nutrition that they seek.

Bowls are predicted to grow by 14% on menus in the next four years, and lentils are well positioned to be that savory power bowl ingredient. In looking at the Datassential Menu Adoption Cycle, lentils are currently in adoption stage, with room for growth. This growth potential is borne out by recent trends — lentils in bowls have grown by 229% in the past decade, and by 41% in the quick-service restaurant category in the past 10 years [3].

Zoës Kitchen is owned by the Cava Group and, like its sister company CAVA, also menus lentils in its globally inspired bowls and salads. The fast-casual chain takes inspiration from its Mediterranean roots, with a menu that focuses on comfort foods made with fresh ingredients. Zoës Kitchen has a solid presence in suburban communities, which the Cava Group says has given them strong positioning to continue to meet customers where they are during the pandemic [5].

To learn more about putting lentils on the menu to increase deliciously satiating, plant-forward menu offerings, reach out to our team at

For more menu inspiration, explore our recipes for satisfying power bowls and flavor-packed Mediterranean dishes.

[1] Datassential Scores 2020
[2] Datassential Lentil Perceptions consumer omnibus August 2021
[3] Datassential MenuTrends 2020
[4] Datassential Flavor 2020
[5] Nation’s Restaurant News March 2021