Restaurants around the UK must begin to understand that veganism isn’t a trend, but a lifestyle choice that is here to stay. The Vegan Society found that there are around 600,000 vegans in the country, accounting for 1.16% of the entire population, and this is only set to grow rapidly in the coming years. Restaurants must prepare themselves for the influx of customers and adopt new catering methods to ensure every diet is treated equally — but how?
With Christmas fast approaching, this could be the perfect opportunity to open your doors with a new menu that is designed with vegans in mind. Not only will this help you create a relationship with a growing group of people, but it will also allow you to become more inclusive and ultimately become a first-choice for dining out with friends and family, especially around the festive season.
Whether you’re a restaurant that hosts spectacular deals in the run-up to Christmas or open up on the big day itself, we’ve got what you need to know about catering to vegans this year.
Are people dining out throughout Christmas?
If you run a restaurant, you’ll be familiar with the increased custom around the Christmas season as more people have time to meet up with friends, work colleagues and family members to surround themselves with the festive cheer.
As well as run-up bookings, it appears more people are making reservations at restaurants for Christmas Day than ever before, and results from Google Trends validate this. Between 2011 and 2015 alone, there was a 251% increase in people celebrating the holiday outside of their home and 35% of Brits would consider doing the same.
Although more people are dining out, you must understand whether people close by or familiar with your restaurant would be interested in a vegan menu — ensuring that no time or money is wasted before making the move.
As mentioned above, knowing that there’s interest around a potential vegan menu is essential. To carry out extensive customer research, there’s a mixture of methods that you can follow to gain reliable data that can inform your restaurant decisions and even your future budgets.
Social media is completely free to use, and you should be taking advantage of this. If you already have an established following, create a free survey on software like SurveyMonkey that asks questions around veganism and whether your audience would like to see more options on your menu. Promote this to your own audience and then push it out in local groups to generate a more valuable response.
As well asking the online world, there’s no harm in asking your current customers and whether they think adding vegan options would be suitable — remember, they may have friends and family members who follow this type of diet.
A vegan-inspired menu
You may have perfected your menu for vegetarians and those that do not have any dietary requirements, but catering to vegans is a whole different ball game. Initially, most restaurants believe that they are limited with what they can serve to a vegan, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Almost anything you would serve to a non-vegan, you can put a veganism twist on it and create a standalone dish.
Take a vegan nut roast for example. This can serve between six and eight people and takes around two hours to make. If you have enough vegan customers, this could be the perfect dish to make and then serve separately. Simply combine root vegetables with mushrooms, grains, hazelnuts and fresh herbs and then add additional parsnip crisps to add a crunchiness to the dish.
For a lot of the Christmas dishes that you could make (more of which are featured on the BBC website), you will likely already have the ingredients in stock. So, this will not impact your current relationship with suppliers.
Using vegan chocolate, you can create an incredible fudgy chocolate cake — something that every vegan will surely order when they’re at your restaurant. To be more convenient with ingredients and time spent preparing other desserts in the kitchen, you could keep this as your only chocolate cake dish as it will taste just as good as non-vegan options. Using avocado, soya milk and muscovado sugar, no one will know the difference. This indulging cake will only take an hour to prepare and cook but will serve up to 16 people.
You want to make sure that your vegan choices appeal to the people who will be eating it, so you should host taster sessions with vegan bloggers/food critics in your area. They could then post about your new menu and generate more publicity for your restaurant.