More and more diners are cutting back on the amount of meat they eat. It’s time to take a long look at your menu – are you providing the right options to cater to this shift? And do they stand out well enough?
Increasing concerns about health, and impact on the environment, are driving the momentum behind ‘plant-based eating’. Some diners want to flip the balance by putting less meat and more veg on their plates. Others might be switching from red meat to healthier options, such as chicken or fish. Others are cutting animal products from their diets altogether. Show them that YOU get it by reflecting these changing priorities on your menu.
Don’t hide your vegetarian and vegan choices in a separate section. Take the effort out of ordering meat-free by labelling the vegetarian and vegan dishes on your menu. You can do this easily with symbols and a key. Alternatively, you can design your dishes to be flexible to allow you to simply remove a meat item from the final dish if a diner asks for it!
The same applies to the online world – don’t forget to update your menu on your website and social channels so that anyone researching menu options beforehand knows they will be catered to.
While strict vegans still make up a tiny percentage of consumers, the diet trend is gaining popularity each year. In 2018, 92% of vegan dishes were eaten by non-vegans. Did you know that Mondays and Wednesdays are the most popular days to eat vegan? And that 40% of consumers feel there's not enough vegan choices on menus? It’s time to rethink your approach.
Clue up your staff on preparing vegan dishes with some basic training like this “Mastering Vegan Cuisine” free online course by Chef Andrea Waters.
Remember to add a few secret weapons to your cooking arsenal that give vegan food richness and texture. Here are our favorites:
- Utilize umami. One of the most overlooked opportunities in vegan cooking is what can be achieved with umami flavours. Try using finely diced aubergine and frying it until golden to ad richness to the base of a sauce.
- Achieve creamy consistency. Delivering creamy textures in dishes without using animal products can be challenging, but not impossible. Use non-dairy alternatives such as coconut milk or soy as a starting point. For richer cream, soak cashew nuts in bouillon for a few hours, then simply blend.
‘Plant proteins’ have become a bit of a buzzword, so where you can, bring this up on your menus. You can also draw attention to other plant-based benefits such as the calorie count, or that your plant protein is low fat or contains ‘heart-healthy’ fats.
Some diners going meat-free will still crave the taste and texture of meat. There are loads of new and not-so-new 'meat-alternative' products available that make convincingly meaty burgers and sausages, ‘chicken’ and deli-style ‘meats’, such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, soya chunks and mycoproteins. This is a plus point, not something to hide – so promote it on your specials board, and through your social media. You can also use ingredients with a naturally ‘meaty’ texture, such as pulses, mushrooms, aubergine and jackfruit.
In your menu titles and descriptions, go big on the lip-smacking tastiness of what you’re offering! Put some time in to how best to word your dishes – try to tease the diner with your descriptions. Remember, however delicious your dish is, if it doesn’t sound appetizing, it won’t convert to orders. And while the health-factor is definitely a draw for some, not everyone is looking for the low-calorie virtuous option when they eat out. Any health benefits should be presented as an added bonus.
If you want to shout about your evolving menu, you can run special events such as ‘Meat-free Mondays’ or have a month where you promote (and discount) vegan dishes to draw attention to what you’re doing.
Try to include at least one vegetarian or vegan option on your specials board and daily dish selection. Let them take pride of place in your main menu.
Going meat-free does not mean losing out on flavor, or putting lots of extra work in. Get some inspiration on how to add flavor using herbs and spices and make use of quick-fix products that will add an irresistible umami flavour, such as Knorr Tomoto Pronto and Knorr Aromat Seasoning Powder that make your plant-based cooking shine.