How vegetarian-friendly is your pub or restaurant? Do you welcome non-carnivores with an imaginative menu of tasty meat-free dishes? Or do you view them as frankly a bit of nuisance and begrudgingly offer a cheese omelette on request? If you’re not in the ‘pro’ camp, the chances are you’re already missing out on the sizeable vegetarian market, which is set to continue growing in the years to come.
Research recently by a leading managed pub group found that its customers are eating 46% less meat than they did 10 years ago. Food scares such as the horsemeat scandal, coupled with health campaigns recommending limited consumption of red meat in particular, have contributed to a growing appetite for non-meat dishes. Added to which, vegetarianism has shed its ‘hippy fringe’ image to become part of the mainstream, with increasing numbers of consumers giving up meat if not completely then on a partial ‘flexitarian’ basis.
Operators should also take note of another recent survey that showed consumer dissatisfaction with the vegetarian options available on Christmas menus. Around two-thirds of respondents said they would like to see two or three festive veggie dishes, with younger consumers the most vocal on the topic. And with an estimated 12% of the population now vegetarian – rising to 20% among 16-24 year-olds – statistics suggest there will be at least one in any sizeable group of friends, family and colleagues eating out together over the festive season. Whoever’s choosing the venue will want to ensure everyone’s needs are met satisfactorily, so if you’re not offering a meat-free alternative to turkey with all the trimmings, you could lose out on those crucial Christmas bookings.
Whichever way you look at it, your pub or restaurant needs to be offering vegetarians a dining experience on a par with that enjoyed by your carnivore customers. That means a good range of dishes made from quality ingredients, cooked to perfection and presented attractively on the plate.
The good news is that as consumer demand for vegetarian options has grown, so too has the range of easy-to-prepare veggie dishes available from many food service suppliers. Butternut Squash, Stilton & Spinach Risotto, anyone? Or how about a Parsnip, Sweet Potato & Chestnut Bake? There are also vegetable or Quorn-based burgers, grills and sausages as well as a selection of pasta dishes, curries and more.
With this much choice, there’s no excuse for operators not to provide a tempting veggie offer on their menu. Dishes should be selected with care to ensure a good choice of items based on vegetables, nuts, pulses or other meat-substitutes, rather than too many similar-tasting meals. You wouldn’t put just one meat dish on the menu and expect to appeal to all meat eaters, after all! Also think about how dishes are described on your menu – provenance matters to vegetarians just as it does to other customers, so don’t forget to add the name of the local farm that provides your veg, for example.
Finally, remember that you should be achieving GPs on your vegetarian dishes that are every bit as good, if not better, than those on meat or fish based meal. So extending your veggie offer will not only keep your customers happy, it’ll also help your bottom line. Use the FREE Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App – details below – to make sure your numbers stack up.
At Lynx, we work closely with suppliers to ensure that we know exactly what’s happening on availability and prices across a range of product areas, meaning that we can help our customers to produce menus that not only appeal to diners, but also deliver a healthy profit to the operator. And while we look after the ingredients, you can concentrate on all the other aspects of running a busy pub or restaurant.
We have also developed a free GP Calculator App, endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, which helps chefs and others to monitor margins, particularly specials, using their smartphone or tablet in a busy kitchen. You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play, using the links below:
For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play