Happy World Vegan Day! This annual event celebrates the coining of the term ‘vegan’ and the establishment of The Vegan Society in the UK. Throughout the month of November people around the world celebrate the benefits of veganism through various events and the enjoyment of good food.
A vegan diet abstains from the consumption of any animal products. More and more people are turning to plant-based diets for health, ethical, environmental and religious reasons - and businesses are taking note with more vegan options now available than ever before.
Venues that offer strictly vegan menus are few and far between, leaving people who follow the vegan diet struggling to find places to eat outside of home. By making vegan options available on your menu, you open up your business to a new customer base while also diversifying your menu for other customers.
And you know what - it’s easy. By being aware of a few key things, you can make your venue vegan friendly in no time!
Diversify Your Menu
The first step of the process is to offer a couple of vegan options on your menu. But if that’s not a possibility or a change you want to make in your venue, consider how a vegan customer could customize a meal to make it suitable for their dietary requirements.
There is so much more to vegan cooking than throwing together a salad. There are plenty of resources available to help you prepare creative and delicious meals that don’t contain any animal products, and there are many vegan alternatives to various foods such as cheese and chocolate.
A vegan meal could easily become the most appealing option on your menu! But be careful when deciding on prices - vegan customers often find themselves paying more for a meal that actually contains less. Don’t be one of those venues that charges an extra $5 for that request. If a customer has had to take out feta, eggs and bacon from a meal and substituted those with mushrooms and spinach, it doesn’t make sense to charge them extra.
Providing vegan options doesn’t only suit your vegan customers either. These meals are often chosen by people with food allergies such as lactose intolerance, and by customers who eat Kosher or Halal or are following the fasting rules of the Orthodox Church. Vegan options are also popular with people who are health conscious - and with the wellness trend continuing to rise, this is set to be a growing customer base!
Things To Consider:
- Do you have a vegetarian dish on the menu that is still just as good if a few of the ingredients are removed?
- Do your dishes work if the meat, eggs or fish is substituted for vegetables or a protein alternative?
- Can tofu, tempeh or mock-meat work with your cuisine?
- Do you have any vegan dessert options available?
Know Your Product
Knowing your ingredients is crucial in the preparation of vegan meals. There are often animal products in foods you wouldn’t expect. Check the labels on anything you don’t prepare in-house.
Hot chocolate powder and chai powder aren’t always vegan and your barista should know what these products contain so they can inform customers. Does your venue brew chai with honey? If someone orders a chai with non-dairy milk, it’s a good idea to ask if honey is ok as most vegans don’t eat it. And remember to check if the bread you use is made with eggs or milk.
When it comes to food preparation, you can make little changes in your back of house routine that will make your venue vegan friendly by avoiding cross-contamination. How do you prepare your vegetables? Are they cooked in butter - and could you change that to oil? Do you always butter toast - and if so, can you offer a dairy-free alternative? What ingredients go into your condiments, and can you make vegan versions?
Kitchen utensils also play a big part in making your venue vegan friendly. If a docket requests a vegan meal, make sure your staff know to use separate utensils - just as they would for a Coeliac customer, for example. If you’re sending out a vegan meal, it should have had no contact with animal products in the process - and this includes the knife used to cut up vegetables as well as the grill used to fry the tofu.
Teach Your Staff
It’s important that your staff know what the options are for vegan customers. Back of house will need to know exactly how to prepare a meal without any animal products or cross-contamination, but your front of house servers will have to be in the loop as well.
Talk to anybody following the vegan diet and they will have a story about a venue that claimed their meal was prepared as asked, only to find out the pesto contained cheese or the bread was buttered or the chips were put in the same deep-fryer as chicken nuggets. You don’t want to be this venue! Vegan customers are likely to ask the servers about the ingredients and preparation process, so make sure your staff have the correct answers available and are honest and forthcoming with the options as well as the limitations. Equipping your staff with this knowledge will also help with other specialist food requirements such as allergies and intolerances.
These small adjustments to your venue can be made without compromising any of the key aspects of your brand and they will make your product accessible to a much wider customer base who will be thankful for the options. On top of that, you’ll be teaching your staff about veganism and food preparation, and doing a little something to help out animals and the environment while encouraging people to eat fruit and veggies. Nothing wrong with that! So have a look at your menu and your kitchen and see what changes you can start to implement to make your venue vegan friendly!
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