“Plant-based” may seem like a bit of an overused buzzword, but vegan and vegetarian diets are growing in popularity. As many as 25% of American adults avoid eating animal products some or all of the time, up from just 10% in 2010. The reasons are complicated – political, ethical, and religious reasons abound – but increasingly people are turning to plant-based diets for weight management and similar health concerns. While it’s unclear if we can expect the trend to keep growing, it seems unlikely to shrink any time soon. And ultimately, that means that every restaurant should be prepared to offer plant-based options on their menu, or risk seeing business walk out the door.
Chop the Salads
A common complaint among vegetarian and vegan diners is that often the only plant-based items on the menu are salads. With the recent explosion of plant-derived meat substitutes on the market, such a certain ubiquitous burger, it’s easier than ever to adapt signature recipes by switching out the protein. Improvements in food technology over recent years have also brought to market egg and cheese substitutes that have a better flavor and texture compared to popular substitutes in years past. Most of these can be frozen to extend shelf life if you don’t expect to have frequent plant-based requests from guests.
Beyond substitutions for meat, egg, and cheese, it pays to be aware of the ingredients in both prepared and house-made sauces and condiments. If you can identify sauces and dressings as vegan on your menu, guests who are eating plant-based will feel more at ease, knowing that you have already considered their dietary needs. Small adjustments, such as preemptively replacing melted butter with a liquid butter alternative, can make vegetable sides into vegan sides and give a small bump to your bottom line to boot.
If dessert is on your menu, make sure you have at least one plant-based option. This could be as simple as an avocado chocolate mousse, which is also beloved by sweet-toothed keto and paleo dieters. Or you could go big and adapt a dessert already on your menu by switching out butter, eggs, and milk for common vegan substitutes. This handy printable guide gives suggestions for plant-based baking substitutes, along with conversion instructions. A plant-based dessert will never taste exactly like its conventional counterpart, but you may be surprised by just how good it can be.
Not every restaurant needs to go fully plant-based, because animal products are delicious and there will always be people who enjoy eating them. But every restaurant should consider plant-based diets when updating their menu, because they have hit the mainstream and are unlikely to leave it any time soon. With one in four Americans avoiding animal products some of the time, adding plant-based options to your menu insures they feel comfortable dining with you all the time.