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How to cater for Vegan & Vegetarian Customers

Meat-Free Burger on a Wooden Board

With veganism hitting the headlines you might be looking at your plant-based options. There is a huge demand for alternative options on menus. So, if you need more help navigating veganism and what it means for your business our handy guide is here to help!

The growing popularity of plant-based diets

While eating a plant-based diet is nothing new, there are more and more people choosing to skip meat. Between 2016 and 2018 vegan meal orders grew by a whopping 388%. The Vegan society have predicted that by 2040 only 40% of the global population will be consuming meat, 35% will be eating clean, lab created meats and the 25% will be consuming vegan alternatives. I mean, let's be honest, it's a market you can't afford to ignore.

Vegan vs Vegetarian. What's the difference?

Vegan and vegetarian are umbrella terms for various plant-based diets. There are other types of plant-based diets including pescatarian and 'flexitarian'. To help clear things up this chart explains what the different plant-based diets are.

Diet What They Eat
Dietary Vegan Doesn't eat any animal products including meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy and any other animal-derived substances like honey.
Ethical Vegan Followed the same diet as the dietary vegan, but also avoids animal products in other areas of their life. For example, won't wear leather or wool clothing.
Vegetarian (Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian) Doesn't eat meat, poultry or sea food. They will eat eggs and milk. This is the most common type of vegetarianism.
Ove-vegetarianism Doesn't eat meat, poultry or sea food. They will eat eggs but not dairy products.
Pescatarian Doesn't eat meat or poultry but will eat eggs, dairy and seafood.
Flexitarian/Reducetarian Still eats meat, poultry and seafoods as well as eggs and dairy but it committed to eating less of them.

Why do people follow a plant-based lifestyle?

There are a few reasons people are moving over to plant-based lifestyles. Some of these reasons can be animal welfare, health reasons, sustainability and environmental concerns and it can be down to taste or social pressures.

Thanks to things like Veganuary it's becoming easier and easier for consumers to choose meat-free diets. And with the increase of popularity more and more brands are offering vegan alternatives more consumers are making the swap.

How the food service industry is adapting to plant-based diets

With the rise of vegan and plant-based diets, many brands and restaurants are getting on board. At the beginning of January 2020, a huge number of fast food chains revealed their new vegan menu items. KFC have released a new 'Imposter Burger'. Greggs have revealed a Vegan Steak Bake and McDonalds have released a vegan happy meal. Not just fast food outlets, all the large supermarkets have bought out or have added to vegan lines.

You can see the changes happening locally as well. The UK high street is changing with cities like Bath being the vegan capital of the UK. Bath boasts 153 vegan-friendly restaurants and 360,000 vegan-related Google searches each month. Takeaway restaurants and businesses are also seeing the increase in vegan searches. Deliveroo reported a 206% rise in vegan orders from January 2018 to 2019, and a 62% increase in restaurants offering plant-based dishes.

Things you can do now

You don't have to make dramatic changes straight away, there are things you can do now to add a vegan element to your menu.

  • Look at your existing menu. What meat-free dishes would complement your current menu? Or is there a menu item that can be made vegan with a simple ingredient swap?
  • Are there any vegan dishes you can create using the produce you currently buy in?
  • Add a plant-based milk to your menu for hot drinks
  • Get feedback from staff & customers. You never know they might have a simple idea that could make all the difference!

Ideas for plant-based options on your menu

When developing vegan dishes for your menu you might want to avoid the obvious and the overdone. Whilst stuffed peppers or a mushroom risotto might be classic dishes, vegetarians and vegans are looking for something more.

Legumes

Beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils are just some of the legumes you could add to your menu. Packed full of protein and iron these powerful little plants are a great alternative to meat. They're also full of fibre making them an excellent menu choice.

Nuts, Nut Butters & Seeds

Another great protein source nuts, seeds and their by-products are a vegan staple. Highly versatile, nuts and seeds can be consumed on their own or worked into a huge range of dishes. Perfect savoury or sweet they're a great addition to any menu. Just make sure they're clearly marked!

Tofu & Meat Substitutes

Made from soybeans, tofu and tempeh are a great choice for swapping out meats and seafood. Again, a great source of protein tofu can be used to make all kinds of dishes including curries and patties.

Wholegrains, Cereals & Pseudocereals

Grains like spelt and quinoa are flavourful and high-protein swaps for wheat and rice. Full of fibre, iron and vitamins, these grains are the perfect base for a main meal.

Vegetables & Fruits

Sometimes it doesn't hurt to go back to basics. You can't go wrong with eggplants, mushrooms cauliflower and even jackfruit. Why not try blending frozen bananas for a vegan alternative to dairy based ice creams?

Be sure to avoid cross contamination

One thing about adding plant-based dishes to your menu is avoiding cross contamination. Everything from knives, chopping boards and even thermometers need to be colour coded. As well as colour coded kitchen utensils you'll want to make sure that prep areas and storage containers that could have been used for meat have been suitably disinfected.

Check out our Colour Coded Kitchen Equipment to make sure you're set up for serving vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Last update: 7 January 2020 by Laura Stagg
Last reviewed: 7 January 2020 by Laura Stagg