Integrating Plant Based Food into your Menu

Vegetarianism, veganism and flexitarianism are soaring in popularity as consumers become more aware of the wider impact of their diet choices. However, many hospitality businesses remain apprehensive of expanding their menu to offer plant based options due to a perceived lack of demand, difficulty in creating new dishes and high costs. There are even concerns that more plant based options would clash with their image or brand.

Regardless of misconceptions, embracing the popularity of plant based food presents a variety of benefits for businesses offering catering of any kind.

The business benefits of adding veggie options to your menu

Your production costs are dependent on your menu choices, their ingredients and your choice of supplier. Planning to include more plant based meals on your menu opens the door to a new world of cost-effective, flexible and accessible ingredients to help lower overall production costs. 

Vegetarian and vegan meals offer customers additional health benefits, with the same great quality and accessibility as animal-based meals. The total emissions from global livestock represents 14.5% of all emissions and plant based meals are better for the environment on their efficiency alone. 

Integrating plant based food into your menus can be considered ‘striking whilst the iron is hot’. Sainsbury’s latest Future of Food report showed a 24% increase in customers searching for vegan products online, and a 65% increase in sales of plant-based products year-on-year. 

With consumers actively pursuing plant based alternatives, the likelihood of selling plant based dishes has increased. Offering more plant based options opens the door to a new demographic of customers – who may be vegan or vegetarian, or want healthy, popular and more environmentally friendly meals.

On a smaller scale, localising your supply chain is guaranteed to reduce environmental impact. Deliveries will travel a shorter distance, reducing shipping time and therefore reducing emissions and energy usage.

Take advantage of the opportunity to revamp your menu

After a long, hard year for hospitality, venues have now started to reopen post-COVID. With this in mind, chefs and restaurant managers are naturally working on their menus – presenting the opportunity to try something new.

The excitement of hospitality reopening, coupled with the increasing popularity of plant based diets, creates the perfect opportunity to increase the number of plant based meals on your menu.

Here are our top four tips to embraced veggie alternatives:

Do your market research

No matter what business you run, doing your market research on the impact plant based foods is vital. You need to ensure you’re introducing plant based meals for all the right reasons – without compromising on your brand values or alienating customers. 

This could include:

  • Ask what your customers want through focus groups.
  • Interview industry specialists about plant based meals, suppliers and ingredients.
  • Observe and record customer requests in person or via social media.

Gradually offer alternatives 

Implementing sudden large scale changes to your menu could come as a shock to your regulars.  Instead, introducing new plant based dishes gradually to customers is likely to create intrigue and excitement. 

You could start by offering plant based daily or weekly specials on your menu as an easy way to test what your customer demand is like.

Talk to local suppliers

Starting a conversation about plant based foods with local suppliers will help get the creative juices flowing to develop new dishes and the opportunity to offer a seasonal menu.

Locally sourced products tend to be of better quality. Once a plant is separated from its source, the product is exposed to the elements, meaning the process of spoiling accelerates and the food begins to lose moisture and nutrients, causing it to degrade.

This makes locally sourced produce the most viable option. These products will have a shorter harvesting time, less packaging and travel shorter distances. Most importantly, they offer local establishments the chance to create seasonal meals of the highest quality, freshness, nutrition, and taste.

Sourcing within a smaller radius also helps your local economy to thrive. When the local economies flourish, customers socialise more and your business will profit through increased spending.

Experimenting and training

Investing in training gives time for chefs to experiment and create new dishes for your menu, allowing your establishment to capitalise on the plant based food trend.

HIT Training apprenticeships come enriched with a variety of vegan and vegetarian, vegetable and vegetable protein modules, taking chefs’ skills and knowledge of meat-free dish development to the next level. 

Additionally, our Diploma in Plant Forward – Plant-Based Catering course designed with Quorn will expand a chef’s confidence, knowledge and technical skills when developing plant-based meals.

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