This shows that operators are aware of the increasing demand for meat-free dishes, but with COVID-19 predicted to accelerate the number of consumers adopting a plant-based lifestyle2, Veganuary 2021 and as a recurring key date could be set to change.
Trying vegan meat alternatives
1 in 5 Brits cut down their meat consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, with half of those trying vegan meat alternatives saying they’d continue to choose them again after lockdown3.Therefore, with plant-based food choices becoming part of a new normal, a single month dedicated to vegan options may disappear and offering ‘always-on’ show stopping pub or restaurant vegan dishes to your customers could be expected.
At GARDEN GOURMET® we understand the scale of the opportunity and aim to drive real change with our plant-based innovation. Our top tips below have been compiled to help ensure your vegan restaurant menu choices really deliver – both in Veganuary 2021 and beyond.
1. Consider your top sellers for the Veganuary menu
Adding a completely different type of dish to your menu for Veganuary may seem to be the right approach, but unless sales of similar dishes on the menu are typically high, it’s unlikely it’ll be a big hitter as a special and won’t feel authentic vs. the rest of the menu.
The popularity of the Vegan Greggs Sausage Roll (helping sales surge +9.6% in the first 7 weeks of 2019 according to their February 2019 trading update) and the Subway Meatless Meatball Marinara (extended from limited edition option to permanent menu fixture) demonstrate how vegan meat-substitute options of traditionally popular menu additions perform well. A range of options across menu categories may work well to appeal to varied consumer needs, but if only one or two dishes are to be added, they should ideally be showstoppers that appeal to those who eat meat as well as those who don’t.
Reviewing the most popular dishes on your menu and considering how vegan alternatives similar to these could be created will help ensure sales meet expectations. To minimise waste and reduce complexity, the vegan dishes offered should also complement the existing menu; utilising some of the same produce where possible and considering a pipeline of longer-term dish development options if new products are brought in.
2. Highlight ingredients to help build trust
Many consumers are re-evaluating their diets following the Coronavirus pandemic. Their interest to understand the link between wellness and immunity seems to be increasing4 with 57% of consumers saying they will be scrutinising what they eat from venues more carefully than before5.
The transparency of ingredients has increased in importance due to COVID-195. This poses a good opportunity for operators to leverage perceptions of quality and transparency by calling out ingredients, level of environmental impact and provenance.
Leverage perceptions of quality & transparency
For consumers that ventured out post lockdown, 72% expected venues to source trustworthy ingredients5 and although vegan options are generally considered to be healthy, communicating the ingredients and selling points of plant-based dishes could go a long way to help build trust. Not only that, it could even encourage uptake of your Veganuary menu and vegan restaurant dishes.
3. Spread the word about your pub or restaurant vegan menu for Veganuary 2021
If your Veganuary 2021 dishes feature on the menu as specials for one month only, ensuring that your existing and potential customers know about them in advance is essential to increase footfall. Additional covers over the festive period mean extra people to tell about your January dishes. Accessing this pool of captive audience at the right time in conjunction with sharing relevant online content could encourage your prospects and customers to engage, share, interact and promote the messages on your behalf.
Trading can be notoriously tough in January so considering Veganuary-themed promotions is an ideal way to demonstrate value for money and appeal to those on a budget. Coupled with that consider encouraging guest feedback with a Veganuary-themed prize draw or competition as an incentive. With over 90 million posts featuring #vegan on Instagram, online competitions are a great way to communicate with diners to spread the message as well as to generate some amazing content for your brand.
Many companies and brands also see success with PR stunts – including Frankie & Benny’s who partnered up with Meat Loaf to try and encourage him to change his name to Veg Loaf in celebration of their new vegan menu. Celebrity endorsements done right can definitely make your marketing activities more memorable with recognisable faces capturing consumer attention which in return helps with word of mouth. That apart, there are also other tactics that could help similar to Costa Coffee who persuaded tradespeople to try its vegan toastie without telling them it was meat-free to try and shift their perceptions.
4. Consider the future of vegan menus in restaurants and pubs
Veganuary is only for 31 days, and while it’s a great time to attract new customers into your venue with vegan restaurant menu options, it can become quite competitive in the market due to increased popularity over recent years. Customers will be looking for authenticity and a lasting, meaningful commitment to the cause, with options that can extend past just the month of January.
This could be a good time to introduce new vegan concepts for a limited time in order to assess popularity with a view to having a regular pipeline of vegan choices available throughout the year.
50% of consumers, aged 18-34, state they’d like the ability to substitute animal protein with plant-based alternatives6 while 25% of young British Millennials (aged 21-30) say veganism is now more appealing than before the pandemic. For over one in 10 Brits, a vegan diet is now more attractive7. These figures only demonstrate that the demand for always-on vegan choices is set to accelerate further. Therefore, a range of dishes that work with and without meat could be more profitable long-term than purely vegan-only options.
More deliveries than usual
With the new normal, working from home looks set to be a part of many people's lives for some time to come and with this online food delivery is one of the sectors that stand to gain.
In fact, 27% of British adults ordered more deliveries than usual (or for the first time) during lockdown, with signs indicating they will continue their high frequency including from pubs and bars8. Therefore, keeping an eye out for what vegan dishes will hold and travel well is paramount.
Many consumers are still anxious about crowded and busy places, and with government restrictions on gatherings changing regularly, planning for the future with a mix of take-away and delivery-friendly dishes will help cater to changing consumer demands as well as generating additional revenue streams.
Looking for plant-based recipe inspiration? From Veganuary menu specials through to always-on plant-based menu creations, our GARDEN GOURMET recipe books have a selection of dishes for Veganuary and well into the future.
- 2020 statistics, Veganuary website
- WGSN Coronavirus Food & Drink Change Accelerators, April 2020
- Attest consumer survey for the Vegan Society (‘Change in behaviour during the COVID019 pandemic – April 2020)
- Mintel How Covid brought the future forward, May 2020
- CGA Consumer Analysis, April 2020
- Technomic 2019 Center of the Plate Seafood and Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report
- Mintel consumer research, April-May 2020
- CGA Brandtrack, April 2020