The Time is Now for a Veganized Menu
Picture this: A party of 10 is arguing over where to eat when someone suggests your restaurant. There’s a mutual agreeance that your place has amazing food and service until the one vegan in the group points out that there’s nothing they can really eat on your menu. After some grumbles, they dismiss your restaurant and pick somewhere else to go where everyone can enjoy a meal. Growing up as the sole vegetarian in a family of meat lovers, I can’t even count how many times this scenario has happened to me and probably countless others. Is it worth losing a 10 top over a lacking menu? We don’t think so. That’s why we’re here to tell you not just why any good restaurant should have a vegan option, but also how to best implement a tasty and memorable veganized menu that’ll have people from all across the dietary spectrum raving about your restaurant.
Attitudes Towards Plant Based Lifestyles are Changing
According to Forbes, veganism is growing quickly, from 1% percent of Americans in 2014 to 6% in 2017. It’s a “trend’ that isn’t going anywhere. More interesting though is the rise of the Flexitarian. A “Flexitarian” is a person who mostly follows a plant-based diet but does incorporate animal products like meat and dairy. People who follow this diet tend to attribute their choice to health and environmental influences. A 2018 study by Dataessential found that a whopping 22% of consumers are trying to cut back on their meat consumption. With this information, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that carnivores are the largest consumer group of plant-based protein. Coupling ever improving meat alternatives, with health and environment concerns, there’s been massive growth in this industry. Attitudes are changing toward a plant-based lifestyle and the term “vegan” is no longer leaving a disappointing taste in people’s mouth.
How these Changes are Affecting the Restaurant/Food Industry
Plant-based protein is shaking up the restaurant and food industry. Big names are beginning to incorporate plant-based options into their menu, with massive success. Since releasing the Beyond Meat Taco, Del Taco has been raving about their success in bringing in new customers, along with increased consumer spending. When White Castle initially introduced the Impossible Slider, market share increased by 250% in locations that served the slider over those that didn’t. Meat mogul, Tyson, is releasing their own line of plant-based proteins this summer. I could throw more facts at you, but I’m sure you get the point. The restaurant and food industry is embracing and working to meet the demand for more plant-based proteins. As more restaurants incorporate a vegan-friendly option, it will likely hurt your business if you don’t.
Why You Should Include a Vegan Option on Your Menu
What good business owner doesn’t want more people to which they can market and sell their products? That’s a no brainer. Including a veganized menu option that isn’t a boring salad does just this. That’s another 6% (according to the aforementioned Forbes article) of consumers you can add to your customer base, not including those flexitarians looking for a tasty alternative. And like I said before, it’s not just vegans that are into eating this stuff. Odds are you’ll have regular or lapsed customers intrigued by a new addition to your menu, just like Del Taco did. Veganism is a trend that’s playing the long game and you’re going to want to be on the right side of it.
Potential Concerns and Ways to Avoid Them
With any new change, questions and concerns are natural. You don’t have to worry about this one though. We want to make adding a vegan option to your menu as easy and friendly as your new menu addition(s) will be to your customers. You may be worried that a vegan meal won’t fit with your menu or brand, or that meatless meat might be out of your price range to regularly keep on your menu. These are fair concerns, but they can be easily worked around.
Plant-based meat alternatives can be expensive. The Beyond Burger sells for about $12 a pound vs $5 a for a pound ground beef at Whole foods. While most restaurants upcharge to help cover these costs, meatless meat may not be affordable for your restaurant right now, and that’s ok. Meatless meat is far from necessary to create a memorable vegan dish. There are plenty of easy delicious vegan recipes that don’t have a fake meat component to them.
Are you worried about incorporating a vegan meal that fits with your menu and brand? Don’t be. Google is your best friend here. Whatever type of food your business has to offer, you better believe there’s already a vegan workaround floating around out there online. Do you serve Mediterranean food? Try this easy vegan falafel wrap recipe. Italian? Give this delicioso recipe a shot. Dare I say Steakhouse? The ease of this mushroom-based meal will have you trippin’. Not only do these recipes cover different types of cuisines, but they’re also fake meat or meat-free! This just goes to show you can incorporate a memorable vegan dish or two that will put you on the veg-friendly map.
Tips to Implement these Changes
Now that you know that you don’t need fancy meatless meat and that your brand won’t be tarnished let’s move onto some tips for unrolling your new addition. Marking your veganized menu with a symbol that indicates your options or meals that can be made vegan is essential. This is a quick way for readers to establish that you have options they can eat without having to look through your entire menu. According to OpenTable, 93% of diners look up menus online before going out to eat, and we typically spend 15 seconds on a webpage before leaving it. That means you’ve only got 15 seconds to let potential customers know that your restaurant has an option for them.
Create a Star Vegan Dish
Building your new menu item into your brand’s story is exciting, and incorporating a vegan option to your menu has other positives outside of increasing your customer base. Introducing a new menu item creates a fantastic PR opportunity for an “unveiling” on your website and across your social media. In turn, the publicity can increase your online presence with reposts and new followers. Vegans have their own community and word will spread bringing them in droves to give your restaurant a try.
Having a star vegan dish is a necessity on any good menu, but it’s a nice bonus to have more than one option. Looking through your menu there are probably meals that with a few tweaks can be meat or dairy free. This also means that you don’t have to worry about extra costs for food you don’t normally buy since you’re working with what you’ve already got. Just remember to mark these menu items as well to present all possible options to your customers.
Put Restaurant Data to Work for You
Our final recommendation is to track your data. Restaurants rely heavily on data to know that they’re making the best moves for their business and customers. Keeping track of your data can also reassure you that you made the right move by adding a veg-friendly option to your menu. If possible, keep metrics on the number of times someone orders your new vegan dish on a weekly or monthly basis. Furthermore, keep track of the party size that typically includes a vegan meal. Remember that 10 top I mentioned at the beginning of this article? You can now recapture these customers because you have something to offer everyone in the party.
Adding a veganized menu option is both easier and more in demand than ever before. It doesn’t have to be intimidating or break the bank. Don’t let your business fall behind or exclude you from potential customers. Have fun with it, be open to feedback, and enjoy your new menu item!
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About the Author
Brooke is a marketing intern at QSR Automations. She recently graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. In her free time, she likes hanging out with her pup, spending time in nature and watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine.