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A meat-free Christmas: top tips for restaurants catering to vegans

With Christmas hot on our heels, now is a great time for restaurants to stand out with a vegan menu. But how do you cater for meat-free diners this Christmas?

Once dismissed as another dietary fad, veganism is growing from strength to strength and proving it is here to stay. The Vegan Society states that there are around 600,000 vegans in the UK, which accounts for 1.16% of the population. With the popularity of veganism only increasing, this number is set to continue to rise.

For restaurants looking to stay a step ahead, catering to vegans is a no-brainer. You’ll open yourself up to a new crowd of diners, as well as people who are opting for the ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle of reducing their meat consumption.

Plus, with Christmas hot on our heels, now is a great time for restaurants to stand out with a vegan menu. But how do you cater for meat-free diners this Christmas?

Restaurant visits at Christmas

People love to meet up with friends and family over the festive season, and restaurants can certainly see that in their increased custom. As well as run-up bookings, it appears more people are making reservations at restaurants for Christmas Day than ever before, and results from Google Trends validate this. Between 2011 and 2015 alone, there was a 251% increase in people celebrating the holiday outside of their home and 35% of Brits would consider doing the same.

Be sure to do a little research before presenting a vegan menu option — a quick survey of the local area might uncover some vegan customers who would love to try out your restaurant!

Preparation

Customer research is critical for a restaurant to deliver what customers and potential new customers want. To carry out extensive customer research, there’s a mixture of methods that you can follow to gain reliable data that can inform your restaurant decisions and even your future budgets.

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Make the most of the free resource that is social media for your research! If you already have an established following, create a free survey on software like SurveyMonkey that asks questions around veganism and whether your audience would like to see more options on your menu. Promote this to your own audience and then push it out in local groups to generate a more valuable response.

Why not ask your current diners what they think? Remember, they may have friends and family members who follow this type of diet.

Meat-free dishes

You may have perfected your menu for vegetarians and those that do not have any dietary requirements, but catering to vegans is a whole different ball game. Initially, most restaurants believe that they are limited with what they can serve to a vegan, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Almost anything you would serve to a non-vegan, you can put a veganism twist on it and create a standalone dish.

A vegan nut roast is a great vegan option at Christmas or even Sunday dinner! This can serve between six and eight people and takes around two hours to make. If you have enough vegan customers, this could be the perfect dish to make and then serve separately. Simply combine root vegetables with mushrooms, grains, hazelnuts and fresh herbs and then add additional parsnip crisps to add a crunchiness to the dish.

No doubt you will have many ingredients already in-stock that you can use for vegan options at Christmas, and substitute ingredients are easy to source. Using vegan chocolate, you can create an incredible fudgy chocolate cake — something that every vegan will surely order when they’re at your restaurant. To be more convenient with ingredients and time spent preparing other desserts in the kitchen, you could keep this as your only chocolate cake dish as it will taste just as good as non-vegan options. Using avocado, soya milk and muscovado sugar, no one will know the difference. This indulging cake will only take an hour to prepare and cook but will serve up to 16 people.

Running a taster session for your vegan menu with vegan bloggers and food critics gives a valuable opportunity for feedback too. They could then post about your new menu and generate more publicity for your restaurant.

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