With some diners looking to cut back on their meat intake, it’s time to re-examine if your menu is providing the right options to cater to this shift. Even if you have created new plant-based dishes for your restaurant menu, have you been implementing the right food and beverage marketing ideas to ensure that they stand out well enough?
A proportion of your diners may already be avoiding meat for religious or ethical reasons, and others for the impact on the environment. Since COVID-19, people have also moved towards more plant-based diets for their health1. Even in Singapore, more people are cutting their meat intake and opting for plant-based food instead3.
Now, all that’s left is for you to use your delightful creations to attract more diners to your restaurant — especially those who are on meat-free diets. Read on for 7 tips on how to promote your plant-based dishes.
1. Don’t Isolate Your Plant-Based Dishes in Your Menu
Did you know most diners who choose plant-based meat dishes are actually omnivores? In fact, our studies show that over 90% of diners who eat The Vegetarian Butcher’s plant-based meats identify as “meat eaters”.
This means that you should not park your vegetarian and vegan dishes in a separate section of your menu, as that can make meat-eaters skip the section altogether. Instead, integrate your plant-based meat dishes into the regular menu. You can indicate that a dish is suitable for vegans or vegetarians by using small symbols. Alternatively, you can make your entire menu inclusive by offering diners the option and flexibility to remove meat from their final dish.
When introducing a new plant-based dish on your menu, always place it beside more popular or familiar items on your menu to ease diners into it, and ensure it’s visible on the menu. You can even transform popular dishes into plant-based delights with these 7 tips for a simple plant-based menu.
Dos and Don’ts in Branding Plant-Based Dishes
Simply offering plant-based dishes on your menu is not enough to attract diners. It’s also about branding them such that they appeal to all — meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike.
Avoid These Terms
Even the very way a dish is named affects how diners view your dishes. When labelling plant-based dishes, here are some terms you should avoid and why.
Don’t Use This Term! Here’s Why: Meat-free While a plant-based item labelled “meat-free” may appeal to vegetarians and vegans, it may scare meat-lovers away from a delicious and healthy decision. Focusing on what a dish is not like prevents the consumer from imagining how fantastic it could be. Vegan You can indicate vegan recipes with a vegan symbol on the menu so that your vegan customers can find them. However, when a recipe is labelled “vegan,” it isolates non-vegans instantly. Subconsciously, non-vegan consumers may think it is less tasty than non-vegan dishes, or at least, it isn’t made for them specifically. Vegetarian
For the same reasons the word “vegan” is not optimal, “vegetarian” also creates an “in-group” and “out-group” in consumers’ minds.
Health-restrictive terms like “low fat” Studies show that restrictive language has low appeal. Consumers are more interested in the nutrients, taste, and benefits of their meal — not what it is lacking.
Include These Terms
In your menu titles and descriptions, go big on the lip-smacking tastiness of what you’re offering! Put some time into wording your dishes well and try to tease the diner with your descriptions.
Creative and witty dish names like “Holy Cow Burger” or “English Breakfast with Little Willies” can make a dish really stand out. They’re also more memorable and fun for diners to share with their friends or on social media.
Use This Language!
Leverage a food’s provenance, like this: “Cuban Black Bean Soup” or “Chicago Deep Dish Pizza”
Studies show that consumers are more excited about food and feel it is more of an experience when it describes a specific location.
Focus on flavour with terms like “smoky”, “fiery”, or “sour”
The more you can give the consumer a taste of a dish, the more likely they are to order it. Don’t name the dish based on its ingredients. The more descriptive about the flavour you can be, the better.
Use words that demonstrate the food’s appearance or texture, like “rainbow”, “vibrant”, “melt-in-mouth”, or “smooth”
Plant-rich foods are brightly colourful, and they bring fresh textures to the table. Words that convey a beautiful dining experience will contradict any concern of a bland or boring meal3.
Remember, however delicious your plant-based dish is, if it doesn’t sound appetising on paper, it won’t convert to orders. For this reason, have an outside party review your written menu to make sure it’s as captivating as can be.
Need some advice? Check out the 5 ways to write food menu descriptions that sell, and use this language when writing up your menu.
2. Incorporate Health Trends Into Your Menu
Health-conscious folks are raising a glass to wheatgrass, the latest health trend taking over the world 2. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it’s no surprise that the wonder-food has quickly made its way to diners around the country. Chefs should integrate wheatgrass into their menus to appeal to the health-conscious community and keep up with the trend.
What is Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass is the young, tender shoots of the wheat plant5. The shoots are harvested after the plant has grown longer than the harvest time for wheat malt. Since it has grown longer, it contains more chlorophyll and amino acids than wheat malt does.
Benefits of Wheatgrass
The popularity of Wheatgrass stems from its multitude of health benefits – it is even taken as a health supplement in the form of a powder or wheatgrass juice. Some benefits of consuming wheatgrass include:
- Boosts immunity: The phytochemicals found in wheatgrass work as antioxidants to help fight inflammation and support the immune system5.
- Prevents diabetes: Wheatgrass could be used to treat Type 2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels5.
- Reduce cholesterol: Wheatgrass may help to lower blood cholesterol levels5.
Serving Wheatgrass in your menu
There are many ways you can incorporate the use of wheatgrass in your dishes, but here are some options to consider:
- Can be served as cold press juices
- As garnishes
- In salads or Chinese dishes
3. Cater to Vegans and Vegetarians
This is not as challenging as you think! Yes, you’ll lose some weapons in your cooking arsenal that give food richness and texture — butter, cream, and eggs for example — but this is an opportunity to rethink your approach and create stunning new creations in your vegan and vegetarian menu.
Most importantly, understanding the difference between vegans and vegetarians is the first step. Learning which ingredients to use and avoid will help you navigate and plan a proper vegetarian and vegan menu.
What’s the Difference between Vegan vs Vegetarian?
Vegan means eating plant-based food only, with no meat, seafood, or animal-derived products such as dairy, eggs and honey6.
- The term “vegan” was created from the combination of the first and last letters of “vegetarian”6.
- People who identify as vegan usually treat it as a lifestyle choice and not just a diet. This means that they also avoid purchasing items made from animal-derived parts, such as leather bags, down jackets, and wool coats.
- People go vegan for various reasons, some for ethical reasons to oppose animal cruelty, and others for health reasons or to limit their environmental impact.
Vegetarian means eating plant-based foods, with no meat, poultry, or seafood. There are a few different types of vegetarians:
- Ovo-lacto (or lacto-ovo) vegetarians eat eggs and dairy
- Lacto vegetarians eat dairy foods
- Ovo vegetarians eat eggs
- Pescatarians eat fish
While semi-vegetarian/flexitarians eat mainly plant-based foods, with the occasional meat.
Teach your staff the difference between vegetarian and vegan dishes too, so they can confidently advise your customers on their food options and build trust.
4. Replace Animal Proteins with Plant-based Proteins
Protein plays a vital role in keeping our bodies strong and healthy7. While most people get their main source of protein from animal meat, people with plant-based diets heavily rely on plant-based protein to get their daily intake of protein.
With the many benefits of plant-based protein, it’s no surprise that vegan dishes have become so popular. In fact, the average number of vegan dishes per restaurant in Singapore rose from 2.3 to 4.3 in just 1 year, from 2019 to 20203. Plant-based diets are increasingly accessible and easy to find, which makes it easier for more to adopt a plant-based or vegan diet.
‘Plant-based proteins’ have become a bit of a buzzword, so where you can, shout it out on your menu. You can also draw attention to other plant-based benefits such as the calorie count, or that your plant protein is low fat, or contains ‘heart-healthy’ fats. This might really swing it for some diners.
Derived from plants and is a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets, plant proteins can offer the same amount of protein as animal meat, and even additional benefits like fibre that promotes gut health8.
Check out The Vegetarian Butcher products for a variety of plant-based protein products that offer great taste and texture — almost like it’s the real thing! The Vegetarian Butcher is a longstanding brand that has global recognition, especially among consumers of plant-based meat, so remember to use the “Powered by The Vegetarian Butcher” logo in your menu for recognition.
According to a study conducted in the Netherlands in October 2020, The Vegetarian Butcher is the number one brand in its category (in the Netherlands) and is the most widely recognised of all the “animal meat replacement” brands. This brand recognition will give your diners assurance of your plant-based meat’s safety, quality, and taste.
Some diners going meat-free will still want the taste and texture of meat. There are loads of new and not-so-new 'meat-alternative' products available that make for pretty convincing meaty burgers and sausages, ‘chicken’ and deli-style ‘meats’, such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, and soy chunks. This is a plus point, not something to hide — so promote it on your specials, and through your social media. You can also use ingredients with a naturally ‘meaty’ texture, such as pulses, mushrooms, eggplant, and jackfruit in your meatless menu.
Use “Powered by The Vegetarian Butcher” logo in your menu for recognition
The Vegetarian Butcher is a longstanding brand that has global recognition, especially among consumers of plant-based meat. According to a study conducted in the Netherlands in October 2020, The Vegetarian Butcher is the number one brand in its category (in the Netherlands), and is the most widely recognised of all the “animal meat replacement” brands.
This brand recognition will give your diners assurance of your plant-based meat’s safety, quality and taste.
5. Social Media & Marketing
As technology becomes an integral part of our lives, it has never been more important to have an online presence and to make sure your customers are not only able to find you digitally, but that they enjoy the online experience as much as they would physically. Having a social media presence for your restaurant is a great first step to building your brand online, in addition to having a website, and perfecting your food photography skills.
When featuring your plant-based dishes on social media, be sure to make them look extra vibrant, juicy, and mouth-watering, and pair them with snappy captions to capture potential customers’ attention. It’s important to develop a unique brand personality that portrays positive, vegan-friendly values to better reach out to the vegan community.
Marketing your plant-based menu doesn’t have to be a difficult feat if you follow these tips! Just be sure to use the right language across your communications, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different plant proteins and meatless meats to spice up your menu.
Bonus: Extra tips on how to make your plant-based dishes sell
- Train your staff on how to sell plant-based dishes: Equip your wait staff with the knowledge to answer common questions about plant-based meats. These are usually related to taste, ingredients, and health.
- Make these dishes look like their meaty counterparts: Seeing is believing. That’s why making your plant-based dishes look similar to their animal meat counterparts can quickly convince meat-loving diners (whether they’re meat eaters or flexitarians) to give your new plant-based dishes a try. Once they’re hooked, they’ll be asking you to include more plant-based dishes into your menu!
At the end of the day, marketing your plant-based meat dishes should be similar to promoting your animal meat dishes — where you focus on great taste, texture and flavours, rather than aspects like health or being cruelty-free. You can let diners decide on those aspects themselves, you just need to whet their appetite with dishes that look, smell, and taste amazing!
"The content of this article is intended for inspiration purposes only. It is not intended as clinical, medical or nutritional advice."