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Veganuary: there’s money in a meat-free approach

January is more often than not subdued for venues as many customers take a step back from their favourite outlets having made the most of the festive season. But with healthier living at the forefront of consumers’ minds at this time as health kicks and New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, there’s no better time for pubs and bars to cater to them.

One of the biggest, and most lucrative, health-related trends in hospitality right now has been the meteoric shift towards veganism, and with Veganuary on the horizon, now is the perfect time to think about what you’ll offer the growing number of customers looking to eat a completely plant-based diet or reduce their meat intake.

Boosted by health, ethical and environmental credentials, the diet has skyrocketed in recent years, particularly in the UK, and the statistics lay that bare. According to data from Google Trends, Veganuary is set to overtake Dry January as the nation’s main health-focused initiative in the first month of the year.

And as more and more medical studies have linked a vegan diet to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, it’s unsurprising to find there’s exponential growth in veganism. With that in mind, we’ve spoken to three operators behind successful vegan venues to get their advice on how to make a success out of Veganuary as it shapes up to be the largest one on record.

One in three UK consumers have reduced their meat intake either partly or entirely and vegans and vegetarians are predicted to make up a quarter of the British population by 2025.

Highlight your dishes nutritional benefits

One of the key drivers towards veganism has been the health benefits inherent in balanced plant-based diets.  Popular amongst an increasing number of elite athletes, not least Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi, and gym goers alike, veganism is gradually dispelling the common myth that the diet is devoid of protein.

Dishes such as curries can be made with seitan, tofu, lentils, peas, kidney beans and wild rice, all of which are packed with protein and can appeal to those beginning new fitness regimes in January.

If your vegan dishes contain nutrients that customers may be looking for more of in their diets, look to market this on your menu. “Protein-rich” and “high in fibre” descriptions on menus can help you capitalise on the trend toward healthier living. In addition, if a certain dish is particularly high in fruit or vegetables, it should also be highlighted with “two of your five a day” definitely enough to encourage some customers to select that option.

No social dilemma

As Veganuary draws nearer and customers begin to look out for the best places to eat vegan options over the month, social media will be a vital means to draw in diners. So it’s crucial to think about how you’ll market these choices and more specifically what they will look like on camera and in newsfeeds.

Consider how you can make your dishes more instagrammable with the addition of interesting and eye-catching ingredients. Plenty of colourful vegetables served on similarly vibrant tableware can help convey quality and generate interest in an outlet’s offer.  

Naturally, more camera-friendly and aesthetically-appealing options will have a far better chance of being posted on your guests’ socials ramping up the attention your food will receive online and generating further business.

Stay focused when it comes to drinks

The perfect way to package a stellar Veganuary offer is to pair meat-free dishes with vegan drinks, the good news is that the vast majority of drinks on offer from spirits to soft drinks in the on-trade are vegan-friendly.

However, there are certain areas of specific drinks categories which are hard to negotiate when it comes to animal products. Some beers and wines, which are seemingly vegan, can be made in a way which does use animal products. Double check any drinks you are promoting either on your menu or on signage online during Veganuary to make sure they are appropriate.

Remember hot drinks too, speciality coffee sales are showing strong growth for bars so it’s important to cater for vegans here too. While soya milk has been prevalent in high street coffee shops for years, the market is changing fast here too. Oat, almond and coconut milk are all popular alternatives to cow’s milk in gourmet coffee and tea and having one or two of them available to customers can help reinforce a truly comprehensive offer in Veganuary and beyond.

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