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Five essentials for your vegan menu

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by Diane Cosgrove

You would have to be living under a rock not to realise that veganism has experienced a phenomenal increase in popularity over the last few years.

It’s part of a trend towards ethical consumerism, where the customer is engaged about the provenance and footprint of their purchases.

The rise in veganism is part of a lifestyle that has been driven by Generation Z.

They are young, they have strong views about health, the environment and ethics and make choices based on their views.

But they aren’t alone. Eating less meat – or no meat products at all – is now a part of life for all age groups.

So while it’s fairly straightforward to include vegan options in your menu, keeping your vegan customers happy is more difficult.

Here are five things that you might want to consider if you decide to cater to the vegan customer.

1 – Curious customers

Your customers have made a choice to forego meat products and this will have meant making adaptations to their lifestyle.

Expect a more engaged customer, who will ask your employees about the provenance and environmental footprint of your products.

Getting your employees knowledgeable about the vegan provenance is key but think about publishing information on your website or social media pages, which will help inform your customers before visiting and give your employees a resource they can refer to.

2 – Plastic isn’t fantastic

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by creating the perfect vegan offering and wrapping it in single use plastic.

Plastic is a key issue within foodservice at all levels, and if you haven’t considered the plastics that you use, then maybe it is time to look at alternatives.

Antimicrobial food packaging, recycled paper menus, recyclable boxes and thermal liners for food transportation are now commonly available and it is important that you look at what you use.

Tempting socially-conscious customers into your establishment then provoking them with environmentally-suspect single use plastic utensils isn’t a good idea.

3 – Picture this

Once upon a time, vegan food was a riot of mushrooms and not always particularly photogenic.

Now there is an almost endless choice of colourful vegan options.

Your biggest audience will be of the Instagram generation where everything that is eaten or drunk is photographed and uploaded to social media.

In fact, Instagram is a key influencer in people’s decision making on where to eat.  It’s free advertising. Make the most of it.

4 – Now wash your hands

Cross-contamination during food preparation is an issue that must be taken seriously.

As well as addressing all existing health risks, remember your vegan customers would be distressed if their food was contaminated with meat products and it would damage your reputation if your preparation is criticised on social media.

The Food Standards Agency has a handy set of  allergen management guidelines to preparing food which, in combination with having all staff fully trained, can help you get your head around the issues involved.

5 – Accidentally vegan

We’ve all been eating vegan food for centuries.

Menu staples like bread, soups and tomato sauces often have no meat derivatives in them.

Look through your existing menu – perhaps you’ve been missing a chance to show your vegan-friendly credentials.   And is there something that you could tweak, for example by using vegetable stock rather than chicken stock and turn it into a vegan dish?

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it does indicate that courting the ethical consumer market involves more than you might have thought.

But with the vegan market worth £740million last year, you may find it is worth the effort.

You can find more information on Macphie’s vegan offerings at www.macphie.com/get-vegan-friendly