Hungry for plant-based: How restaurant owners benefit from the demand for plant-based products
Interview with Katleen Haefele, Head of Food Services & Events at ProVeg
How are restaurants making use of the growing interest in plant-based dishes?
Restaurants all over the world are expanding their menus to include exciting plant-based offerings, often created in collaboration with plant-based brands and chefs – including, for instance, Burger King working with The Vegetarian Butcher or the on-board food service of Deutsche Bahn partnering with Planted and Oatly.
By serving attractive plant-based dishes, restaurants gain a competitive edge and can provide their guests with new and exciting taste experiences. In addition, more and more people are basing their food and consumer decisions on their personal values. Plant-based menu options enable guests to identify with a restaurant and make them feel good about what they eat.
What are the three most important reasons why guests choose plant-based options?
If one considers plant-based alternatives, specifically, consumers in Germany primarily opt for them out of curiosity,(1) followed by concern for animal welfare and the environment, both of which have increased in importance compared to last year. However, for most people, taste is just as important as the environmental argument – for two-thirds of respondents, both taste and environmental considerations are decisive factors.
What best-practice examples are there for successful plant-based restaurant concepts?
Innovative professional food services show us how it’s done: chains such as Hans im Glück, Peter Pane, and Dean&david have not only hugely expanded their plant-based offerings over the past few years with creative menu options – they have also promoted these offers using well-thought-out marketing and communications concepts. This strategy bears fruit: the top-ranking chain in ProVeg’s 2023 ranking of restaurant chains, Hans im Glück, states that, by now, 50% of dishes sold are vegan. Restaurants are most likely to convince customers with holistic concepts – as well as a large selection of plant-based main dishes, side dishes, and desserts, communication measures are also needed. This includes appealingly named dishes, their attractive placement in the menu, and active promotion of plant-based offerings.
Katleen Haefele, Head of Food Services & Events, talks about how restaurant owners benefit from the demand for "plant-based" (Source: private)
Restaurants score top marks with plant-based offerings
Plant-based food is becoming increasingly popular. Meat consumption in Germany has declined significantly, especially over the past three years. In 2021, meat consumption per capita was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1989.(2) Correspondingly, the plant-based sector has been growing continually for years. This growing demand for plant-based options is also reflected in the restaurant landscape. Restaurants are positioning themselves as contemporary, sustainable, and responsible by offering a diversified range of plant-based options, and customers are reacting positively to this commitment.
Taste and health as buying criteria
A balanced, plant-based diet offers numerous health-related advantages, compared to a diet that is rich in animal-based products. At the same time, the occurrence of so-called lifestyle diseases is closely linked to our dietary habits – and more and more people are recognising the connection. For example, according to the BMEL Nutrition Report, the health aspect of eating plays an important role for 89% of respondents.(3) Having more balanced plant-based options on the menu is therefore important for restaurants that want to address a health-conscious target group. It’s important to note that taste is the be-all and end-all for the majority of European consumers and the most important reason for choosing – or not choosing – a plant-based product.(4)
Plant-based options as a sustainability argument
Around two-thirds of German consumers who choose plant-based alternatives are motivated by environmental and climate-protection concerns.(5) This is for good reason: the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that animal farming is responsible for at least 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions.(6) A further estimate published in Nature Food suggests that the figure may be closer to 20%.(7)
The reduction of animal-based food is thus an important lever in terms of mitigating the accelerating climate crisis. Environmentally-conscious customers are focusing more and more on aspects such as these, which are influencing purchasing decisions. By expanding their plant-based menu options and communicating effectively about them, restaurants can take on entrepreneurial responsibility and, at the same time, form a strong bond with the growing number of environmentally conscious consumers.
Something for everyone
Restaurants can stand out from the crowd by introducing creative, plant-based offerings. For certain potential guests, the availability of a plant-based option can tip the scales when it comes to the choice of restaurant. In the meantime, over half of people in Germany are vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian.(8) This means that, in the case of group outings, it’s very likely that at least one person in the group is looking for a plant-based dish – and that the collective decision to choose a restaurant depends on the preferences of this person and hence the availability of plant-based options.
Innovative plant-based restaurant concepts show how it’s done
More and more restaurants are making it simple for guests to eat plant-based food. Frea, founded in 2019, was the first vegan zero-waste restaurant in Berlin and showed that haute cuisine, good taste, and sustainability can go hand in hand. Bananaleaf, a pop-up food concept, also gave a great demonstration of how plant-based can be done well, and was awarded the German Gastro Founder Prize at Internorga in 2021.
In 2022, the Berlin-based restaurant Ursprung hit the headlines in the trade media.(9) Ursprung sees itself as a “Planet!Based Restaurant” and experimental kitchen. The concept is oriented around the concept of a planetary-health diet: meat and fish make up only 5% of the offerings, with a further 19% comprised of dairy products, and the rest of the menu purely plant-based. Ursprung’s food offerings are both natural and technologically innovative, for example, 3D-printed meat alternatives.
"Introduce plant-based options - this is how to do it!“
how to replace animal ingredients with plant-based alternatives in the catering industry.
(1) Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (2022): Deutschland, wie es isst - der BMEL-Ernährungsreport 2022. Online: https://www.bmel.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Broschueren/ernaehrungsreport-2022.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=9 [16.02.2023]
(2) Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (2022): Versorgung mit Fleisch in Deutschland seit 1991. Online: https://www.ble.de/DE/BZL/Daten-Berichte/Fleisch/fleisch.html?nn=8904230 [16.02.2023]
(3) Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (2022): Deutschland, wie es isst - der BMEL-Ernährungsreport 2022. Online: https://www.bmel.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Broschueren/ernaehrungsreport-2022.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=9 [16.02.2023]
(4) 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]
(5) Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (2022): Deutschland, wie es isst - der BMEL-Ernährungsreport 2022. Online: https://www.bmel.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Broschueren/ernaehrungsreport-2022.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=9 [16.02.2023]
(6) Gerber, P., H. Steinfeld, B. Henderson, et al. (2013): Tackling climate change through livestock: a global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. FAO, Rome
(7) Xu, X., P. Sharma, S. Shu, et al. (2021): Global greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods. Nature Food 2(9), 724–732. doi:10.1038/s43016-021-00358-x
(8) Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (2022): Deutschland, wie es isst - der BMEL-Ernährungsreport 2022. Online: https://www.bmel.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Broschueren/ernaehrungsreport-2022.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=9 [16.02.2023]
(9) Polster, Michael (2022): PlanetBased im Restaurant Ursprung, veröffentlicht am 19.09.2022. Online: https://blgastro.de/24_stunden_gastlichkeit/planetbased-im-restaurant-ursprung/