The headlines, trend reports and various experts seem to agree, plant-based protein is set to explode in 2018. Inevitably, vegan and vegetarian diners, formerly seen as the “complicated ones” in a dinner party, are thrilled to see their beloved plant-based foods taking center stage.
It is not however, just vegans and vegetarians celebrating this trend. Plant-based foods satisfy consumers’ appetite for healthier food alternatives, as well as environmentally sustainable and socially-conscious products. Environmentalists and health-conscious consumers are also excited!
And the good news for meat lovers who are hesitant? A shift towards plant-based foods
doesn’t have to be absolute. Novel terms such as “flexitarian”, “che-gan”, “reducitarians” and trends like “Meatless Mondays” or “meat-free before 6” show the popularity and acceptance of lifestyles that are less strict and therefore, much more inviting.
Although the “vegan trend” in restaurants may bring forth some frustration (some might even say a touch of animosity), it is time to see plant-based foods as an opportunity to build on the sustainability movement, rather than as a hair-pulling experience for chefs.
For restaurants trying to become more sustainable, embracing plant-based protein is a good idea from many perspectives. Here is a short-list of reasons why!
1. Broaden Your Customer Base
By including more plant-based dishes on your menu, you can eliminate “no votes” from
vegetarians and expand your consumer reach. Oftentimes, large dinner parties have to be very careful with their restaurant choices. The more people in their party, the more likely it is that someone will have unique preferences or limitations when it comes to what they eat. If you can reassure event organizers that you offer a wide range of dishes, including plant-based options, they will feel confident booking their party with you. Furthermore, service staff will feel reassured and proud while providing advice to diners who are limited by allergies or lifestyle preferences, knowing you have the dishes to back up their claims.
2. Further the Sustainability Movement
Canadians are beginning to think about reducing their meat intake, whether for environmental, moral or health reasons. As consumers seek out more alternatives, they will start by looking to restaurants and will not want to compromise on taste. By developing more plant-based dishes, you can meet consumer demands for sustainable menu ingredients while also helping to…
3. Make Plant-Based Taste Delicious!!!
For anyone who has read through Baum+Whitman’s food trend report, you may remember a line where they refer to plant-based foods as “tasting like depravation”. By being creative and innovative, chefs and restaurants have the opportunity to redefine customer perceptions of plant-based food and create a lasting impression. Research shows that consumers are more likely to try dishes with meat alternatives while dining out, due to their own lack of confidence
when it comes to cooking these foods. It’s time for restaurants to set an example!
4. Save Money by Keeping Food Costs Low
It is no industry secret, restaurant margins are low. With costs of meat increasing and prime meat cuts often the largest part of food cost, moving to alternate sources of protein can help to meet margin requirements. By keeping food costs low, restaurants can remain accessible, sustainable and profitable.
As this trend develops and emerges, there are bound to be more ways to embrace the plant-based movement. For now, if you are interested in learning more about plant-based protein and its role in the foodservice industry, don’t miss the 7 th annual UGSRP symposium being held at the University of Guelph on March 7th. Titled “Plant Based Menus, ‘Fad’ or Trend?”, you’ll even hear from us at Henry’s Tempeh on the panel!
**Molly works for Henry’s Tempeh and was the producer of our One House Podcast series.