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Use National Vegetarian Week To transform Your Specials

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Vegetarian bake

Mushroom risotto, goats' cheese tart, vegetarian lasagne. These three often dominate the vegetarian options at many pubs and restaurants, but why? A lack of vegetarian chefs can lead to a disinterest in veggie food. In many cases, this means a lack of exciting, healthy vegetarian meals. However, with National Vegetarian Week fast approaching and the world’s meat consumption dwindling, maybe it’s time to ditch the boring veggie meals and be more adventurous. Besides, it makes very good business sense...

What’s National Vegetarian Week?

National Vegetarian Week (NVW) is held every year by The Vegetarian Society to raise awareness and support for a vegetarian lifestyle. The organisation asks people to ‘go veggie’ for a week and see whether they like it, whilst also offering grants for organisations and establishments to put on their own vegetarian events.
Vegetarian dish

The event gets extensive media and web coverage, tends to trend on numerous social media platforms and could be a great excuse to freshen up your meat-free offerings. If you don’t want to rock the boat too much, why not theme your specials board around vegetarian week or even produce separate specials for the week to showcase your veggie credentials.

After all, vegetarians endure more than their fair share of bland and disappointing meals, meaning they tend to be very loyal to anywhere with good veggie options! Showcasing exciting veggie food during NVW could therefore be an easy way to attract repeat customers, whilst even acknowledging the event shows a level of interest and engagement that vegetarians frequently don’t get.

What do vegetarians want?

Tasty, interesting food. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, sometimes replacing the meat element of a meal with something else isn’t always successful, so you need to have broader ideas about what makes exciting veggie food. For example, rather than just replacing the meat of your carvery with a nut roast, could you provide something more exciting? It’s also worth thinking about how you cater for vegans: for example if all of your vegetarian dishes contain milk or eggs, you’re still excluding some diners!

Why do vegetarian options matter?

Vegetarian Korean Dish
Vegetarians are on the rise. Since 1989, the number of veggies in the UK has almost doubled to more than three million, and a meat-free diet is becoming an increasingly common choice for many people. With one UK newspaper estimating 20% of under 25’s are either vegetarians or vegans, you need to provide exciting veggie options or risk losing out on an increasingly important and growing piece of the market.

Whilst it’s also a tired cliché that vegetarians are fussy, they’re definitely a key factor in where people choose to dine! It only requires one vegetarian or vegan in a large group to dislike your options and you’ve lost what could have been a sizeable and lucrative booking. 

Are vegetarian options profitable?

Vegetarian dishes tend to have much lower costs than their meat equivalents, primarily due to replacing expensive meats with cheaper alternatives such as fresh veg or a meat substitute. Dishes retail for almost as much as meat equivalents despite this, leaving you with a significantly wider profit margin. In other words, it’s easy to profit from vegetarian and vegan food

What is a good alternative to meat? 

As one vegetarian blogger quipped when reviewing a Portobello mushroom burger “if a mushroom is a burger, my Mini is a Ferrari”. In other words, we know that vegetarians can still be passionate about food and they don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on the best bits of your menu.

Vegetarian BologneseThis means it can be tempting to use meat alternatives such as tofu or Quorn to deliver like-for-like substitutions. Unfortunately, whilst a popular and consistent product, Quorn is also an everyday staple of many vegetarians’ diets: Having it on a menu could leave customers feeling a bit underwhelmed.

Critically, however, they really don’t need to! There are absolutely tonnes of meat-free recipes which can produce meals that are just as nutritious, filling and tasty as your other menu options. In other words, rather than reaching for a mushroom or Quorn, maybe you could offer a more imaginative substitute.

Exciting vegetarian dishes

Entire cultures and cuisines use little or no meat, meaning you have thousands of possibilities for
interesting and exciting food which doesn’t rely on meat substitutions. With Bangladesh and India eating less than 5% of the UK’s meat consumption per head, you can excite vegetarians with fresh, fragrant, spiced dishes bursting with seasonal vegetables, rather than copying a conventional meat dish. Why not use National Vegetarian Week to trial these types of delicious, healthy specials which will offer your diners huge flavours?

Vegetarian bowlSuch dishes often get bulk, protein and other nutrients from pulses, such as chickpeas in aromatic Punjabi Tadka dal or black beans in spicy and hearty Mexican quesadillas. These ingredients are incredibly affordable and generally non-perishable, meaning that making your veggie specials more interesting also makes great business sense. In fact, the best vegetarian dishes’ appeal goes beyond vegetarians to dieters, health-conscious customers and flexitarians.

What’s flexitarianism?

Flexitarianism is when somebody chooses to be vegetarian at some points and eat meat at others, such as with ‘Meat Free Mondays’. In other words, it’s part time vegetarianism. Whilst part-time vegans are on the rise, the number of flexitarians is erupting as the health benefits of a meat-free diet are more widely understood. In fact, over 50% of chefs answering a recent Nisbets survey predicted that healthy food will be the biggest trend in 2017 and ‘going veggie’ is definitely part of that.

Younger restaurant goers no longer feel a meal has to contain meat to be worth buying, meaning the vegetarian option is therefore not just for vegetarians anymore! This means carnivorous diners will also judge you for the type of vegetarian specials you are producing. Lazy or uninspiring veggie meals can ‘bring down’ your whole menu, turning away a large number of diners. The good news is that as National Vegetarian Week approaches, there’s never been a better time to showcase your vegetarian flair and embrace lucrative new customers in doing so.


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