Five Things Vegans Wish Restaurant Owners Knew

Despite the increased demand for vegan options across the world many restaurant owners are reluctant to add them to their menu. Even corporate giants such as Royal Caribbean and Disney have introduced vegan options to their customers and the response has been incredibly positive…and profitable.

But, you don’t need to be a multi-million dollar enterprise like Disney to attract more business through vegan options. Take a look at the following five things vegans would love to share with restaurant owners so you can see how any eatery can increase customers and add to their bottom line easily and affordably through the addition of vegan options.

1. Sorbet is not dessert.

Don’t get me wrong. A tablespoon or so of sorbet between courses is a delicious palate cleanser but it’s a poor excuse for a vegan dessert. The same goes for fruit.

On a recent visit to Cape May, New Jersey, my dad, his girlfriend, and my husband, and I stopped at a locally owned ice cream shop where I had enjoyed some delicious vegan ice cream two years before. When I asked about the vegan flavors I was told, “we have sorbet” to which I replied, “sorbet is not ice cream”. The guy behind the counter proceeded to mansplain that “vegan ice cream isn’t ice cream either.”

We turned around, left, and walked down the street to a Ben & Jerry’s where they had not one, but two delicious flavors of, you guessed it, vegan ice cream. That local ice cream parlor lost four customers that day.

Many vegan desserts are easy to make to have on hand for your plant-based customers. Since vegan desserts are so rare for vegans to find while eating out you will score big points by having at least one choice available.

2. Grilled vegetables are not a suitable vegan option.

The Grilled Vegetable Platter is otherwise known as the dreaded GVP to vegans. It’s a cop-out for restaurant owners who think it’s the easiest way to attract vegans (by the way, plain salads also fall into this category). There are so many ways to introduce creative, fresh cuisine without relying on the GVP or salads.

Here’s an example. We recently ate at a beautiful restaurant in Dubrovnik, Croatia with a group of around twenty other vegans. The first course was a delicious vegan soup which was followed by a gorgeous presentation of—you guessed it—grilled vegetables. There’s no presentation beautiful enough to make the dreaded GVP something a vegan looks forward to eating. Even those who eat vegan for their health won’t be happy as the vegetables are generally quite oily.

By the way, while we eagerly anticipated a dessert of vegan cake after being given a clean knife and fork after dinner we were let down when we were presented with a plate of cantaloupe, kiwi, and grapes (see above rule about fruit as dessert). As all the fruit was unpeeled I’m assuming the knife was given to us so we could peel it ourselves. Epic fail.

3. The vegans choose where the group dines.

When my friends and I eat out they always ask what my preferred restaurant is knowing that if the vegan options are good everyone will enjoy their night. Now, instead of drawing one or two customers to your establishment, you’ve drawn a whole group. And, we will be loyal customers who will come back again and tell everyone about our experience.

4. Adding vegan options to your menu will attract a whole new clientele.

Casa Italia in Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica

A local restauranteur here in Costa Rica added an entire vegan section to the menu of his Italian restaurant and there are some days when he serves more vegans than non-vegans. Adding his listing to Happy Cow has drawn customers, as well.

Another example of “vegan done right” is one of my favorite casual restaurants in central New York called Brix. They have the most impressive vegan menu I’ve ever seen (for a non-vegan eatery) and it’s grown immensely since I was there three years ago. They even have three vegan desserts! Brix has it figured out.

The vegan menu at Brix in Cortland, New York

A survey done by Kiki Adami, founder of Veganizer, a hospitality consultancy firm found that “out of 22 restaurants located in the US, UK, and Australia that made the switch to 100% plant-based offerings…All reported increased sales of between 10% and 1,000%”. Those are some impressive numbers!

However, switching to offering only vegan food like those restaurants in the sample above, or having an extensive selection isn’t necessary. Sometimes something as simple as having some vegan burgers in your freezer (bonus points if the bun, mayo, and cheese are vegan) is hardly an inconvenience to kitchen staff but goes a long way in increasing your bottom line through increased traffic to your establishment.

Something else to keep in mind is that vegans love to share their experiences which give you the opportunity to easily reach a lot of people if you provide an excellent experience for vegans.

5. If you wouldn’t eat it why would your customers?

At a catered event a few years ago the vegan options included mashed potatoes made without vegan butter or any other seasonings. No salt, no pepper, nothing but soy milk and potatoes. Needless to say, they tasted terrible. The vegan entree was mushrooms with barely melted vegan cheese sprinkled on top. My first thought was that no one tasted these dishes before they left the kitchen to see if they had any flavor.

You don’t need to be vegan to know when something tastes good and with the internet full of recipes there’s no excuse for serving tasteless food.

The bottom line is that adding vegan options to a restaurant menu is easy and a big moneymaker as this article from TouchBistro confirms. Restaurants see an increase in sales, and loyal customers, without losing the personality of their establishment. That sounds like a win-win to me.

If you’re a restaurant owner and would like to find out how to easily and affordably increase revenue by adding vegan options to your menu send me an email at chris@anewdayvegan.net to set up a free 20-minute consultation.

Published by anewdayvegan

Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, graduate of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, and Rouxbe Culinary School's Professional Plant-Based Cooking, and Forks Over Knives programs. www.anewdayvegan.net

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