“Any restaurant that does not serve plant-based food is burning money. Everyone knows that the vegan chooses where the group eats.” —Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association President
With the massive rise of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, diners who eschew meat and other animal products are no longer relegated to ordering a salad or an assortment of starchy sides. In addition to countless local eateries, popular chains such as by Chloe, Veggie Grill, Clover, and Plant Power Fast Food are putting those who opt for a plant-based diet front and center by eliminating animal products from their menus while serving delicious and healthy food.
The future is plant-forward
International food and dining consultants Baum and Whitman named plant-based dining the 2018 trend of the year. According to Statista, Americans spent roughly two billion dollars on vegan and vegetarian food in 2017, a 23% increase from 2016. Katrina Fox, in an article for Forbes, contends that the data is clear that the popularity of vegan and vegetarian restaurants is only going to continue to grow.
The affect on traditional restaurants
Unlike in the past when their options were limited, vegans and vegetarians can now afford to be more discerning. No longer content with bland pasta primavera, they expect a variety of options and they want them to be delicious. With 12% of Americans under the age of 50 identifying as vegan or vegetarian and the popularity of Veganuary and Meatless Monday, there is a good chance that at least one member of a dining party is looking for animal-free options.
Reap the benefits
It is not necessary to totally eliminate animal products from your menu to reap the benefits of this trend. Traditional restaurants can respond to the rise in vegan restaurants by moving in a plant-forward direction in the following ways:
1. Increase plant-based options
Offer beef, chicken, and even seafood plant-based meat substitutes in lieu of the real thing on existing menu items. Traditional burgers chains such as TGI Fridays and over 10,000 eateries are serving the incredibly popular The Beyond Burger and converting even die hard meat eaters.
2. Make your menu user-friendly
Clearly mark plant-based options and differentiate between vegan and vegetarian. Ensure that your staff is aware of the ingredients of all dishes. This includes animal-based stocks and other “natural” flavorings that are not part of a plant-based diet but often go overlooked by restaurant staff.
3. Keep it tasty
As with any cuisine, it is imperative that your food is tasty. Make sure your plant-based options are as flavorful and healthy as the other items on your menu.