Tips on how to maximise World Vegan Month

Flex your menu: tips from Julie Cleijne and Garden Gourmet's ‘Sensational Burger’ with daikon and sprouts
Flex your menu: tips from Julie Cleijne and Garden Gourmet's ‘Sensational Burger’ with daikon and sprouts

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Sustainable menu expert Julie Cleijne, founder of Sustainable Kitchen Consultants and creator of a new plant-based toolkit for operators, Flex Up Your Menu, in partnership with Garden Gourmet, offers tips for pub caterers for World Vegan Month, which begins today (Monday 1 November) – which is also World Vegan Day.

Recent research shows only a dedicated subset of consumers are fully committed to having zero animal products in their diet, with more wanting to reduce their intake, rather than fully remove animal products completely, ie, flexitarian rather than fully plant based. So, it makes good commercial sense for operators to make sure their menu offering can cater to as many customers as possible, with some great plant-based options to choose from.

If there is ever a time to sharpen your selection of flexitarian-friendly menu items, it is now. Plant-based eating is here to stay and it needs to find a permanent home on your menu, with World Vegan Month the ideal time for operators to improve or extend their offer.

Consider menu wording carefully because the term ‘vegan’ may be off-putting for some consumers. ‘Plant-based’ is viewed much more favourably and is considered to be less restrictive, appealing to the flexitarian who is key to your sales. Operators could look to opt for a ‘V’ abbreviation on menus to communicate vegan options.

Pub operators should also look to offer both indulgent and healthier plant-based menu options as some customers will be opting for plant-based options for health reasons and, therefore, will be looking for nutritious and lower-calorie meals while others may want to use their dining out experience to treat themselves. Choice is still key.

Vegan awareness days offer a big opportunity for publicans to drive sales and attract new customers, with a YouGov poll (February 2021) showing that around three million UK adults adopted a plant-based diet for some if not all the month of Veganuary (January).

Tips for maximising World Vegan Month:

  • Optimising your offer: keep the plant-based options on your menus interesting and offer a good selection. Remember that some of your customers will order these dishes because they offer something different, while others will want to swap like for like. Be bold in your choices, use exciting ingredients and eye-catching menu language
  • Tap into useful resources: there are guides available online to help you, such as this one​ that can give you ideas to help add plant-based offerings to your menu
  • Launch pad: use World Vegan Month or similarly Veganuary to launch new plant-based dishes or regular events such as meat-free Mondays or a plant-based supper club
  • Use impactful menu language: menu and specials board descriptions should be evocative and eye-catching, and help entice the diner into ordering. Too often, plant-based dish descriptions focus on what the dish doesn’t include, rather than what it does. Focus on flavours, textures and what makes it a great alternative
  • Staff engagement: from the chefs making the food, to front of house staff, it’s important to remember that if everyone believes plant-based dishes can be great, customers will buy into this too. Ask your team for suggestions of dishes/drinks you could add to your World Vegan Month specials or Veganuary offer
  • Tap into online groups: take some time to research relevant online groups – for example, Facebook groups for organisations such as London Vegans and Vegan UK. Link with these groups and engage them – and their followers – in your plant-based menu offering
  • Don’t forget drinks: customers looking for plant-based or vegan menu options often want drinks that have been produced without the use of animal products. Highlight any new products at a vegan-friendly beer, wine or spirits tasting event during the month.

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