Vegan Dining in Vogue
According to the Vegan Society, there are now more than 500,000 people in the UK who describe themselves as vegan and this number is growing. Vegans will often be the decision makers in a group of diners so they are an audience that you should embrace when planning your menus.
“Vegan diners are happy to travel long distances for interesting, varied and tasty dishes and who knows, you might even tempt a few meat eaters to try your vegan dishes if they sound enticing enough,” said Karin Ridgers, founder of VeggieVision TV and presenter for VegfestUK.
More establishments are spotting an opportunity to increase sales and extending their menus to offer vegans something creative to inspire vegans and meat-eaters alike. Vegan dishes will also appeal to diners who have a dairy allergy or are dairy intolerant, need to cut down on animal products for health, lose weight, reduce cholesterol or who simply want a tasty healthier option.
A major UK restaurant chain has recently added seven vegetarian and vegan dishes to its menu including a first-ever vegan dessert. Marketing manager Anneli Fereday, explains: “While our unlimited salad bar has always been popular with non-meat eaters, there’s definitely been a sharp increase in demand for more non-meat main course options in the past year or two. Dining out is a social occasion and with groups increasingly having a veggie or vegan diner at the table it seemed right to cater to them too.”
This movement is winning approval from some of the support groups available to those adopting a vegan lifestyle.
Dawn Carr, vegan corporate projects manager at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said: “PETA is delighted that restaurants chains are adding vegan options to their menus. Savvy businesses are jumping to satisfy the public’s appetite for healthy, humane plant-based food, and vegan dishes – including stuffed red peppers served with sweet potato fries and coconut and raspberry rice pudding – don’t disappoint.“
Other chains are also introducing a separate menu for diners looking for meat and dairy-free dishes.
“Over the past five years, the word vegan has become cool – and catering for a meat-free plant-based diet has never been easier,” explains Karin Ridgers. “There is a growing number of people who will travel miles out of their way to be catered for. They are very loyal and, if you look after their needs, they will carry out a great deal of promotion for you, telling friends and family about you for no cost.”
Here are Karin’s top tips for spreading the word:
- Put a sign in your window, flyers on the counter and contact the local media.
- Drop us a line at VeggieVision TV so we can let our viewers know.
- Contact vegetarian organisations with members who would love to know that you are catering for their needs. They will have local contacts in your area and maybe even local groups who arrange meals out. Try The Vegan Society, The Vegetarian Society, Viva!, Animal Aid and PETA.
- Use the power of social media – post delicious images of your vegan options and watch them being liked and shared…
First things first
When you’re advertising a dish as vegan, you need to be careful it is prepared in a way that meets the correct criteria. You will need to:
- Make sure your vegan utensils are kept separate from the ones you use to prepare meat. A vegan sausage sandwich is not acceptable if it is cooked with the meat sausages either.
- Make sure that there is a separate space for grilling or a new pan for frying.
- Remember little things like the table butter and sauces too.
- Have a gluten-free option that is still vegan – gluten free and vegan are not the same thing!
Just like any diner, vegans want to see creative interesting options that they wouldn’t make at home. If your vegan options currently consist of a risotto and fruit salad, it’s time to have a rethink.
- Try using tofu or tempeh in interesting ways.
- Add some “pizzazz” to a plain salad by using lovely fresh ingredients like avocado, apple, raisins, pineapple, sweet potatoes, asparagus, raw onions, raw mushrooms and sweetcorn.
- Make sure that one of your soups is always meat and dairy free – no meat stock or butter.
- Dried pasta is usually egg free and therefore vegan friendly.
- You can get a dairy-free version of everything from cheese and margarine to schnitzels, hotdogs, bacon and mince – think about how you can use ingredients creatively.
- When it comes to desserts, offering fruit salad – unless there is a big twist – is a vegan’s worst nightmare. Could some of the fruit be served warm or even fried? Try adding cinnamon, mint or even a dash of something alcoholic.
- You could use dairy-free cream, yoghurt and ice cream. You can make or buy in vegan cakes and flapjacks – you could even have them posted to you if you find good suppliers over the internet and can easily be frozen and kept for when needed.
- Offer vegans a choice of dishes rather than just one option for each course.