It's time to offer more than just a token menu item
Ten years ago, including a vegetarian option on your menu was an afterthought, an unnecessary luxury that only a few restaurants even considered. But increasingly, we are living in a health-conscious society and a vast majority of us are becoming more selective about what we want to eat.
After watching ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Forks Over Knives’ many millennials are turning to a ‘flexitarian’ diet, where they decrease but don’t eliminate meat from their meals. Some venues report that almost half of all group bookings include one or more vegetarians (full time or not). So, if you want to appeal to millennials then vegetarian options are essential.
But is tailoring your menu entirely for vegans and vegetarians the wisest move? There are many examples of restaurants that have done just that and have 30-minute lines out the door each night. You may not want to be an exclusively vegetarian venue, but offering more choices is something most, if not all venues can do. The big question is: will you miss out on lucrative group bookings and leave money on the table if you don’t cater to vegans and vegetarians?
It really is easy
It really is unacceptable for restaurants to still be offering boring vegetarian options in 2018. Vegetarians don’t go out to spend their hard-earned cash on a bowl of chips or a side salad and a pasta with plain tomato sauce or some stewed beans isn’t going to cut it either.
Something we always tell restaurants: vegetarian meals don’t have to be healthy! If your diners are going out for a special meal they will often lash out on something they know isn’t good for them. Allow vegetarians the same privilege – vegetarian burgers with haloumi and mushroom, eggplant parmas, eggs benedict with mushroom or spinach, pancakes with chocolate and fruit are all exciting vegetarian options. Instead of thinking how you can ‘replace’ meat, think about delicious easy ways to cook with vegetables instead.
You don’t have to go all out
If you have decided to introduce vegetarian fare, don’t feel pressure to go all out. The Cornish Arms, for example, in Melbourne’s North has an entire vegan pub menu (longer than its regular menu) and huge numbers of vegetarian or vegan only venues are popping up in capital cities (Vege Rama, Vegie Bar, Sister of Soul, Shakahari, Monk Bodhi Dharma for example). However, you don’t have to overhaul your entire menu.
A lot of people just want to have a meat free meal once or twice a week, so focus on those people, and offer three or four options that will keep them happy.
Even if you think it is a trend, you can still capitalise on it
So many of you are reading this and thinking: Vegetarianism is just a trend, it will pass. Perhaps you’re right and perhaps you’re wrong. But the question is: does it really matter? If you do think it is a trend, along with other trends such as dude food burgers, then wouldn’t you capitalise on it? Every business should be aware of trends in their industry. Failing to do so could mean missing out on valuable opportunities or losing business to your competitors.
Vegetarianism is certainly reshaping the restaurant industry as we know it. Although capital cities are leading the way, venues across the country have begun to think about what they could be doing to appeal to a broader customer base. It’s time to offer more than just a token menu offering and see what potential it can bring to your business.