An increasing number of people are adopting plant-based diets around the world and restaurants chefs are eager to cater to this growing trend by creating and offering vegan options on their menus.
According to a study conducted by Foodable Labs (a food industry insights consultancy) in 2018 alone 51% of chefs in the United States added vegan items to their menus. The research found that demand for plant-based menu items rose by 31% since 2017—influenced by social media food-bloggers “tagging and sharing posts” of vegan dishes, which contributed to a 49% increase (of those who have identified with these influencers) to demand more plant-based dining options. Foodable Labs research concluded that adding vegan items to restaurant menus can be a profitable pursuit.
In the UK, high street pastry shop Greggs introduced a veggie sausage roll, whilst the US based sandwich chain Subway released a veggie sub, and during the same period a record number (of 250,000 people) also signed up for Veganuary —an annual campaign that encourages people to try a vegan diet for the month of January.
As the vegan trend continues to grow, how can FM caterers work towards meeting this increasing demand?
Training & talent acquisition
Some FM caterers are providing specialist culinary masterclasses to their staff, facilitated by chefs from well-known vegan and/or vegetarian restaurants. Based on their newly acquired knowledge & skills, these in-house chefs are then able to source out new vegetable-based ingredients and introduce new vegan dishes on their menus. And of additional benefit, these vegan dishes can be cost-effective— which can be factored into the FM contracts.
Preparing vegan options is not necessarily difficult, but it does require “thinking outside the box” of what is classical chef training. Therefore, chefs who are already interested and/or inclined towards health and fitness tend to be more easily adaptable to cooking vegan food. As such, FM caterers would do well to recruit such individuals.
The good news is that there is no need to create separate menu offerings in order to include vegan options— and research has shown that integrating vegan dishes into main menus actually increases overall uptake. And here, it can be helpful to use symbols such as “V” for vegetarian, “Vg” for vegan, and “VO” when a vegan option is available upon request— providing diners with the information they require at a simple glance.
In addition, there are many creative suggestions on how to veganise traditional dishes, such as flavor packed grilled mushroom and black bean burgers, along with high-quality, animal-free substitutes like egg-free mayonnaise and vegan cheese.
Also, crossover dishes can be considered. For instance, meal options can build upon the ingredients that are meat- and dairy-free. If there is pizza on the menu, then a vegan pizza with rice milk mozzarella can easily be created, and meat can easily be substituted with vegetable based protein items such as seitan (i.e. wheat germ), tempeh (i.e. fermented soybeans), tofu (i.e. soybean curd) or others such pea based proteins, for those intolerant of the former.
Health and social benefits
With the world ́s impending climate change due to global warming— backed by evidence of animal farming being one of the biggest contributing drivers — more people are starting to choose to cut out animal products from their diets, opting for vegan alternatives instead.
What is more, vegan options can cater to many different customer segments such as those with egg and/or lactose intolerances, those that are vegetarians or pescatarians, those with health problems, those with religious practices concerning animal meats, and lastly those pursuing ‘clean eating’ health trends.
If FM caterers are able to emphasize these additional service offerings, then they are undoubtedly likely to attract more people to try their menus (even if these people are not strictly speaking vegan).
Veganism contributes to the ´triple-bottom-line´
Vegan options are generally cheaper, offering potential savings that ultimately contribute to the bottom-line. And given the rise in favour of climate and environmental economy— catering to plant-based menu options is further value-adding to the triple-bottom-line (i.e. CSR). By implementing vegan options, FM caterers can help facilitate an attractive workplace, which NOT ONLY provides healthy plant-based alternatives, but which also positively contributes to the reduction of a firm´s overall carbon footprint.
Given that veganism is rising, it makes good business sense for FM caterers to start to cater to this demand.