Google Trends and the Popularity of Vegan Food in Restaurants

The Chef’s Pencil recently reported on the latest Google Trends data in relation to searches for vegan food. Their research revealed that the search for vegan-related terms showed a marked decline compared to last year. 

Does this mean it’s time to get off the growing plant-based food trend

Not quite yet. They also analyzed Google AdWords and the search volume for 500 of the most popular vegan-related keywords over the last four years, including phrases like vegan recipes, vegan food, and vegan restaurants. When turning to this data, they found that vegan-related word searches increased over the last few years, but almost exclusively for dining out. For example, the search for vegan food near me and vegan restaurants rose dramatically in the summer of 2021 and continued to gain traction in the first quarter of 2022. 

It should come as no surprise that the two top cities in the U.S. that led the Google search for veganism were Portland and Seattle. According to the NPD Group, 19% of consumers want to eat more plant-based foods. Their reasons are many, including the many health benefits, growing concern for animal welfare, and the impact and environmental cost of meat and dairy. 

According to one survey, the number of vegans in the U.S. increased from 1% in 2014 to 6% in 2017. Despite the growing popularity, most people simply want to add more fruits and vegetables to their diet, embracing a flexitarian approach.

So, what can restaurants do with this data, particularly at a time when they’re simplifying menus in response to a continued inflationary period?

Something for Everyone to a Point

We’ve all experienced dining at one of those restaurants looking to cater to every person on Earth. We peruse through the five-page menu and wonder how they keep their chefs from bailing ship and what, if anything, is their signature dish. 

The good news about adding a few vegetarian or vegan dishes to your menu is that it’s relatively easy, and you can keep the items in your wheelhouse. As a result, you can offer something for the health-conscious consumers and animal rights supporters without going off on a tangent or adding menu items that will increase costs, create the need for greater inventory control, and tax the already crumbling supply chain.

For those that are not sure what the difference is between these two diets: While both vegan and vegetarian dishes are plant-based, a vegan diet excludes all animal products, like cheese and eggs, while a vegetarian diet allows the consumption of eggs and dairy products. 

Restaurant Menu Ideas

The main food groups in a vegan diet include seeds and nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, and alternative dairy products like coconut milk. When you think about it, many of these ingredients are already on your menu. In some cases, it’s as simple as substituting a bean and grain dish for the animal protein found in one of your customer’s favorites.

One of the popular veggie dishes is veggie burgers packed with beans, brown rice, and mushrooms. Another solid contender is a noodle or rice bowl with marinated tempeh and edamame. Hearty artisan bread and delicious pasta dishes can all be created to fall under these dietary constrictions. The most important consideration is picking vegan and vegetarian options that fit your brand. 


How many vegan restaurants are in the U.S.?

According to Forbes, as of 2019, there were over 1,470 exclusively vegan restaurants in the U.S., with California and New York leading the pack. The Happy Cow, a site like Yelp for vegetable lovers, listed over 24,000 vegetable-oriented eateries. 

What is the most popular state for vegans?

KCR College Radio did a comprehensive study in 2021, gathering data from all 50 states that included the vegan population per capita, number of vegan restaurants, number of vegan meetup groups, and number of animal welfare groups. 

With that in mind, the top five states were Nevada, California, Oregon, Hawaii, and New York. 

How do you promote vegetarian or vegan food at your restaurant?

As Americans shift to plant-rich diets, it’s important to describe your menu items in a manner that appeals to the masses while laying out the ingredients. For example, instead of listing a meat-free sausage dish, change the name to spiced veggie sausage. Also, don’t list vegan or vegetarian. Instead, simply list the ingredients in an appetizing and appealing manner. 

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