How to introduce plant-based options
Replace animal-based ingredients with plant-based alternatives
- It is all about the ratio – as a first step, restaurant owners can try to shift the focus to the plant-based components of a dish, for example, by using plant-based products as the main dish, with animal-based products as a side order.
- Replace animal-based ingredients with plant-based staples. Foods with a high share of protein, such as lentils, beans, or tofu, will fill you up, taste good, and have an excellent price-to-performance ratio. Seaweed, dried and fresh mushrooms, olives, and walnuts all provide the popular umami taste often associated with meat.
- Purchase plant-based alternative products in bulk packs. Meat and milk alternatives, as well as plant-based cream, are readily available in sizes suitable for food-service companies. Many manufacturers – including traditional meat and dairy companies – have now developed plant-based product lines for commercial kitchens, for example, Frischli, Naarmann, and Salomon Foodworld.
Use appetising names and visible placement
- Bring the aroma and texture to the fore when naming the dishes: ‘Savoury turmeric sweet potatoes with spicy ginger’ is much more attractive and descriptive than ‘Vegan sweet-potato pan’.
- Integrate plant-based options into the main menu instead of listing them under a separate category – in this way, they will also stand out to people who aren't actively looking for them.
- Use pictograms instead of ‘vegan’ labellings – small symbols such as flowers, leaves, or trees are intuitively recognised by many people without alienating flexitarians. It’s important to clearly differentiate between vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Taste, price, and texture
- Taste, taste, taste – this is decisive for the success of a dish, whether plant-based or not. Bear in mind that you usually only have one chance to convince, so it pays to take a little longer to perfect the new dish.
- If the components are homemade, for example, patties or mincemeat, it is advisable to create new recipes that don't have an animal-based counterpart and thus don't have to live up to expectations.
- When you do veganise classics, the aroma and texture of the plant-based options should be as similar as possible to the original meat dish so that the taste profile is matched. Ready-to-serve meat, fish, and dairy product alternatives can be helpful here.
- Plan the costs and the implementation of the goods with care: less processed, plant-based basic foodstuffs such as pulses and cereal products are normally far less expensive than animal-based products. On the other hand, ready-to-serve plant-based alternatives are relatively expensive because they are taxed as luxury foods. It’s important to find a balance – 52% of European consumers think that plant-based products are too expensive (10) – so make sure that your plant-based dishes don’t cost more than your animal-based ones.
The demand for plant-based dishes shows no signs of slowing down
The market for plant-based products is continuing to expand. On top of this, there is growing awareness among consumers of the ethical, ecological, and health-related impacts of their diet. This means that restaurants will need to respond to the growing demand for plant-based options if they are to satisfy the needs of a broad spectrum of consumers.
Taste, taste, taste - this is decisive for the success of a dish, whether plant-based or not (Source: New Food Conference / Elaine Wall-Köngeter)
(10) Smart Protein (2021): What consumers want: A survey on European consumer attitudes towards plant-based foods. Country specific insights. European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (No 862957). Online: https://proveg.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/FINAL_Pan-EU-consumer-survey_Country-Specific-Insights-2.pdf [16.02.2023]