What operators think about vegan options?
Dom Moss, who opened his V Rev Vegan Diner in central Manchester nine years ago, reckons Veganuary and vegan dishes more generally present an opportunity to on-trade businesses that shouldn’t be missed.
“If you haven’t got a few vegan options on your menu by now you really should,” he said. “Veganism is such a big movement now and there’s so many people either eating plant-based diets or cutting down on meat that it doesn’t make sense not to offer them something."
“With the amount of new options available to operators [almost one in four food and drink products launched in the UK last year carried a vegan claim], it’s become so much easier to put together good vegan dishes and present them in a way that customers will like.”
Not too long ago the diet was widely perceived as consisting solely of salads, quinoa and falafel but with vegan alternatives possible now for seemingly every dish, it’s possible to switch out meat in any dish successfully for a great tasting substitute, stated Rikki Baker, general manager at Liverpool’s Down the Hatch, which specialises in vegan pub food.
“Almost everyone knows now that veganism doesn’t just mean salads three times a day,” she said. “People know they can have good vegan burgers, curries and spaghetti bolognese for example, so I think this Veganuary will be the biggest one yet.I think the best thing to do in pubs and bars is to stick to what you do best with food but use meat alternatives. Find good quality substitutes that non-vegans or people interested in veganism can be sold on and really enjoy.
"Almost every classic pub dish can be made vegan now, whether it’s sausages and mash, burgers, pies, the possibilities are all there.I think a lot of operators looked into trying to introduce vegan options three or four years ago and the price of ingredients or the limited options available to them at the time may have put them off. Now, the market has changed in a big way, there is so much to choose from and something for every budget. Burgers are always popular so I think offering a couple of really good vegan burgers and hot dogs are solid options."
That tactic has worked well for the family-owned business, which offers eleven vegan burgers with patties made from seitan, soy mince and BBQ-pulled jackfruit. The dishes include ingredients as wide-ranging as peppered vegan cheese, chilli jam, hash browns and charred pineapple. Hot dogs, stir-fry and salads also all perform well for the outlet.
Meat alternatives are driving sales at Birmingham’s Warehouse Café too, where healthier plant-based versions of curries, fish and chips and kebabs are in demand. Putting the rise in veganism down to increasingly ethical and health-conscious consumers, chef Ciara believes the only way is up for meat-free.
“We have a seitan kebab, which we make with lots of spices and pair with a great sauce and a mix of vegetables. People are going mad for it as it’s just so tasty. I think in keeping with the weather and the season, options like nice bowls of stew with meat substitutes and warming curries are what is called for. The great thing for people looking to add vegan dishes to their menus is that meat substitutes are now of such a high quality.”