In a survey commissioned by burger bun supplier Lantmännen Unibake UK, 52% of consumers rated pubs as ‘average’ for vegan food, with 16% describing their offerings as ‘poor’.
JD Wetherspoon, BrewDog and Punch are just some of the pubcos to have made additions to their vegan offerings in recent months, as the sector adapts to consumers’ changing lifestyle preferences.
However, Lantmännen Unibake UK marketing manager Kate Sykes said its research – which also covered restaurants and bars – was proof that many operators needed to re-evaluate their menus.
She said: “The fact that just 24% of consumers would currently rate the vegan offering in bars, pubs and restaurants at four stars or above (out of five) shows that operators clearly need to up their vegan game and enhance their menus.”
This view was shared by Gail Bunn, marketing manager at Brewhouse & Kitchen, which launched a new menu featuring more vegan options earlier this year.
She told The Morning Advertiser: “As more and more people are turning to vegan diets, it is really important that the hospitality sector adapts to the changing consumer demands in order to not alienate any customers.
“The industry would benefit from adapting quickly to changing customer demands by introducing as much vegan-friendly food as possible in order to not lose their custom.
“Vegan products are becoming increasingly present in mainstream offerings, whether that be in supermarkets or pubs and restaurants, and it would be great to see the trend continue.”
Operator Luke McLoughlin owns the Spread Eagle, Hackney, which was London's first vegan pub and told the MA the key to serving vegan food was creativity and high-quality cooking.
He said: "The main thing is that it's tasty. For years vegan offerings were an after thought - bland and tasteless but now we have entered an age where chefs are taking vegan food to new heights and it often tastes better than the meat options.
"The old paradigm of vegan food still remains for many and they either think of healthy ‘rabbit’ food with little substance or bland tasteless options that do little for the palate."
McLoughlin offered some advice for fellow publicans looking to expand their vegan food offering: "Be creative and think outside the box".
Bunn said it was also important to look behind the bar for opportunities to appeal to vegan customers.
She added: “Vegan beers are now a lot more easily accessible than they were previously and many of them are made without using isinglass – a product of the fish farming industry that is used in the filtering process.
“This means that, especially for cask beers, those of us attempting to eliminate animal products from our lives need to be careful with the beer we drink.”