Plant based diets are growing in popularity. Whether it’s because of health, ethical, or environmental reasons, more people are replacing animal products and restaurants should take notice. A Nielsen Homescan survey last year revealed that about 39 percent of Americans are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods. In fact, their data shows that new plant-based options are experiencing double digit growth in grocery stores, items like plant-based ice cream, yogurt, and meat and cheese alternatives. This is particularly true among millennials and diverse populations. People will also pay more for these options and, in 2017, nearly 20 percent of food and beverage dollars came from plant-based products, and that doesn’t even count produce!
This represents an opportunity for savvy restaurant brands, but one that requires several steps. They are simple, but not necessarily easy:
- Evaluate your options — As a vegan I’ve been to restaurants that claim to have plant-based options only to discover what they really have is a salad that, once you remove the chicken, cheese, and dressing, is really just lettuce, tomato, and onion. You could eat it in a pinch, but who wants that to be their dinner? Have at least one warm option. Options like sautéed veggie tacos or grilled portabella sandwiches are simple enough, but can earn you loyal customers for life.
- Make it easy – No one wants to feel like they’re mapping the human genome when selecting a meal. It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing having to ask a server numerous questions, or ordering an entrée with multiple substitutions. “I’ll have the mushroom pesto pizza, only with no chicken, no bacon, no mozzarella, no pesto. It’s a pain, increases the potential for error, and frequently leaves the diner with flavorless food. Once you have several suitable plant-based options, properly label them on the menu or create a separate menu.
- Tell people – People who prefer plant-based options are conscientious and very brand aware. They are loyal to brands that offer them appealing options or align with their values. If you’ve become vegan friendly or added plant-based options, it’s important to share that message. This can be the hard part, but there is help available. An agency that specializes in vegan or plant-based public relations like Orange Orchard can help you craft a strategy to reach those plant-based pioneers.