Whilst abstaining from meat and animal products has been about for many years, in recent times it has become more and more popular – especially amongst the younger generations. It is now quite common as a lifestyle choice; reasons include health concerns, religion, and personal moral choices.
But the why is not the issue here – it’s the how: how can you make your business inclusive enough to not miss out?
We need to recognize that vegans and vegetarians don’t just spend their lives eating beans. There are hundreds of wonderful recipes – including dishes that are easily adapted from ones you may already do, such as chilli con carne.
Also a key part of research, every dish should be taste-tested. Would you want to eat a bowl of sad, dry lettuce with a couple of chopped tomatoes? Just because a customer doesn’t eat meat doesn’t mean they like boring food. Taste test everything. A salad may look nice and colourful, but if it’s 90% red cabbage or chicory leaves, it’s going to taste horrendous. Make sure that, even if it isn’t something you would normally choose, it’s something you would be prepared to pay for.
Then, get the word out! Facebook, Twitter, the local magazine – heck, put signs on the bar and tell everyone who buys a drink! Even if all they tell their friends is that they’re sick of hearing about your new menu, they’re still telling someone.
However, even after you’ve marketed it to the best of your ability, you’ll still need to rely a little on word of mouth in the beginning; people aren’t just going to flood through your doors the moment you mention the V-word. Make sure that any really perishable items are not over-ordered, and maybe try to freeze as much as possible, or buy frozen. There’s no shame in cooking from frozen – it’s just another method of preserving. You don’t want to sink your budget into loads of fancy ingredients and then be caught short.
And remember, this inclusion doesn’t just mean food. Soya or almond milk are good alternatives to have available – especially as both have a much longer unopened shelf life than regular dairy. Sustainable and eco-friendly products will also appeal to this demographic. Try to source recycled napkins and straws, and remember to recycle yourself – and advertise the fact!
We’ll be having a look at sustainability as a business soon, so check back for further updates.