Guest Blogger: Veg Coast – How to make your restaurant more vegan-friendly

21 Jun

Check out Stephen Hui, author of Veg Coast, he’s shared his post with us about making restaurants more vegan friendly. I sincerely hope restaurants would listen to him as he makes great valid points. Stephen is a journalist living in Vancouver. He blogs about vegan food on Veg Coast, which launched in October 2012. Please follow Veg Coast on: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Welcome Stephen!

Vegan mini tacos

Vegan mini tacos at the Parker, a vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver. (Stephen Hui)

These days, vegan food is more popular than ever. As vegans make up a small fraction of the population, many vegetarians and omnivores are clearly helping drive the trend.

Nevertheless, there’s still a lot of restaurants out there that either don’t cater to vegans (and vegan-food lovers) or don’t do it well. If your eatery is one of them, I’ve put together the following list to help you broaden your customer base.

Here’s 10 different ways you can make your omnivore or vegetarian restaurant more vegan-friendly.

1. Offer more than just a token vegan option

Contrary to popular belief, not all vegans like salad (or subsist on veggie burgers).

2. Label vegan options clearly on the menu

The word vegan or the letter V (defined as meaning “vegan” somewhere on your menu) will do.

3. Say good-bye to vegan options that involve removing ingredients from omnivore or vegetarian dishes

That’s just sad. Instead, you could offer substitutions, such as vegan versions of mayonnaise and bacon, and—even better—dishes that are vegan by default.

4. Don’t charge extra for vegan options

Surcharges for dairy-free cheese and plant milks are the opposite of vegan-friendly.

5. Have a separate vegan menu

Vegans love fully vegan restaurants because they can order anything off the menu. This is the next-best thing.

6. Don’t confuse vegan and gluten-free

For some reason, many restaurants seem to think vegan and gluten-free are the same or related. But they’re entirely different things.

7. Make sure the vegan options are actually vegan

Did you know most margarine isn’t vegan? Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey are definitely not vegan.

8. Keep vegan ingredients in good supply

You always seem to have enough hamburger meat and cow’s milk cheese on hand, so why would you (frequently) run out of vegan cheese and coconut milk ice cream?

9. Test vegan options on omnivores

If they don’t like them, neither will many vegans. Plus, many vegetarians and omnivores, who may observe Meatless Monday or just enjoy the food, will order a great vegan dish.

10. Stop serving foie gras

Even if there’s a separate vegan menu, many vegans won’t dine at any restaurant that serves force-fed duck or goose liver, also known as “torture in a tin”.

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10 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Veg Coast – How to make your restaurant more vegan-friendly”

  1. The Savvy Sister June 21, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Love this!! You should submit to Mind Body Green! This is a perfect article for them!

    • Stephen Hui June 21, 2013 at 10:35 am #

      Thanks! Glad you liked the post.

      And thanks to Vegan Bloggers Unite for posting this.

  2. celestedimilla June 21, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    This is a great post! My husband and I get bored with eating over and over at the few vegan restaurant in our area. Sometimes we try to eat at other restaurants, but it usually doesn’t turn out well. I suppose I can be the one who can make an effort to change this by sharing these tips with local restaurants. Thanks! Celeste 🙂

    • Stephen Hui June 21, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Definitely. That’d be great if you sent this to restaurants in your area.

  3. Brandon June 21, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    What a great article! I wish there were more vegan options for eating out. The restaurants that do have options, usually resort to the old “veggie burger.” You’re right, we are highly misunderstood, lol. We want healthy, plant-based, nutritious options!

  4. Tom June 21, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Absolutely fantastic, Stephen. Thank you! All of us should be doing everything we can to educate our favorite restaurants about the necessity for this. Check out Kim Stahler’s open letter to vegan restaurants:

    http://newveganage.blogspot.com/2012/06/but-we-can-make-you-something-how-your.html

  5. Nicole Leigh June 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    I am struggling to write this comment because I don’t want to be misunderstood. I wholeheartedly long for the day when the points you’ve made become commonplace but I think we might be jumping the gun.

    I think things like #4 might be asking a little much just yet. While vegan versions of many items are available they are still more expensive. Where I used to pay $3 for a jug of mayo I now pay upwards to $8.50 for the same amount (or less!) of the Vegenaise, and restaurants end up in the same boat! Expecting restaurant owners to absorb that cost is not fair to them as a business. We pay extra on our end because we choose to consume more expensive products– it’s a step in the right direction if/when they carry it at all! Our fight should be with vegan product manufacturers and getting them to reduce the sale price from the get go.

    Additionally, for #8, I used to work in kitchens and frequently did the ordering. The problem with ordering specialty items like vegan products was that they often weren’t sold. So as a business my bosses were buying products that were more expensive, not turning them into a profit and ultimately throwing them away. I remember many times where we took things off the menu simply because they just didn’t sell.

    There’s a balance that’s begging to be found and I think we’re moving toward it, but as meat eaters should not have the full run of a place nor should we impose ourselves in way that sets us up to be resented or misrepresented (i.e. “Those nutty vegans and all their DEMANDS,” yaddah yaddah yaddah).

    I hope this came off the way I wanted it to– I loved this article and often review vegan friendly restaurants on my blog that adhere to many of the things you’ve listed above.

    • Stephen Hui June 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Nicole. Those are all valid points that I did consider when writing the post. I just think that there are already great non-vegan joints doing those things, so if a restaurant wants to attract vegans, those are things it can do. If a place is super vegan-friendly, vegans won’t have to make any “demands”.

  6. An Unrefined Vegan June 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Great suggestions! I cheered every one of them. Recently my parents were at a restaurant that they thought I might like to go to while visiting them and he noticed that at the bottom of the menu there was a V for vegan options. Yay, right?? So he asked the server which items were or could be made animal-free and the server was quiet for a minute and said he’d have to check w/ the chef. A few minutes later he came back and admitted that in fact, they could NOT provide a vegan meal. I had a laugh about the absurdity of this (why oh why put the V on the menu?!), but it also pissed me off. How hard is it, REALLY, to have two or three dedicated items on a menu (that isn’t the Chef Salad minus the cheese and ham chunks)??

  7. Starr June 23, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Great suggestions!… While I agree with Nicole about restaurants being concerned with the expense (and possible waste) of vegan ingredients, I also feel the need to state the obvious. Make dishes that don’t use them. There’s no need to use Daiya or Vegenaise, just get creative. But perhaps that is the core problem, maybe chiefs lack creativity without their meat/dairy crutch to stand on.

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