Speaking at MA500 in Manchester today (16 May), food and drink heads from Marston’s, Liberation Group and Brewhouse & Kitchen outlined the trials and tribulations of going vegan as a modern-day operator.
One of the biggest issues to consider is waste and cost, as demand for meat and dairy-free foods, while rising, does not currently outweigh traditional foods, Alice Bowyer, group executive chef at south-west-based Liberation Group said.
Pete Hughes, group head brewer, Brewhouse & Kitchen:
“A lot of people were asking if the beer was OK for vegans, so we experimented with removing the fish-derived finings and accepting a slightly hazy beer.
“We started experimenting with new finings and it just made sense to make all of the beers vegan. It’s about making everything available to everybody.
“The beer still tastes the same, but everyone is much more interested in it, not just vegans, but people who are interested in finings and fish products not being used in the making of their beer. I’ve been surprised about how popular it’s been.”
“Flexitarian weekday food sales are quite high for us at the moment because people are trying to eat less meat during the week,” she said.
“But it is a challenge to introduce a lot of vegan options because of things like food waste – but there is waste to consider because they aren’t the biggest sellers.”
One of Bowyer’s solutions for the pub chain was to bring pop-up kitchens into outlets that either specialise in vegan or offer vegan options.
National operator Marston’s, with more than 700 sites across the country, meanwhile, implemented its bleeding burger last year and has seen sales rocket as a result, said Nicola Arrow, head of food management at Marston’s.
Arrow said: “Over the past two or three years, veganism has ramped up on the consumer agenda, not just for animal welfare, but the environment and consumer health.
“People are buying into the likes of Meat Free Monday or reducing meat content because they want to lead a healthier lifestyle.
“Vegan is a small percentage of our sales at around 1%, but it is bringing people into the pub because they have an intolerance or don’t eat meat, and it can add customers.
“It’s not a trend, it’s a lifestyle shift and it’s here to stay. Every brief that goes to our manufacturers or suppliers is that if you can take an ingredient out to make it fit the trend, do it.”