Vegan dining campaign
Business case for vegan menu options in non-vegan restaurants
There is a growing trend for consumers to opt for healthy and
cruelty-free fare. The Vegan Society NSW's Vegan dining
campaign assists restaurants to tap into this
expanding market. By providing a vegan menu restaurants can show
innovation and forward thinking.
High-quality vegan food is a great solution for caterers because
it appeals to just about everyone - it's tasty, healthy, ethical
and planet-friendly. Having good vegan options on the menu will
broaden the customer base and means the restaurant is
automatically ready to cater for practically any customer who
comes through the door. Vegan food is inclusive and is suitable
If a restaurant can cater for vegans, they are more likely to
win the custom of group bookings where some members of the
group are vegan. Say if there is a group of 20 family
members, friends or colleagues arranging a meal together and
there is one vegan in the group, the whole group will want to
go somewhere where everyone, including the vegan, will have
something good to eat. Or put another way, if a restaurant
does not provide a good vegan option, they lose the custom of
20 people. As stated by the US
Nation's Restaurant News:
"Vegetarian dishes, aside from being less expensive ... also
mitigate the veto vote. Usually, if you have a vegan in your
party, that will dictate where the party eats ... They want to
make sure everybody's going to be satisfied, so diversity is going
to be very important on the menu."
- vegetarians, including lacto-vegetarians who do not eat eggs
- people trying to reduce meat consumption for animal welfare
- people concerned about the
of the production
of animal products
- those cutting down on meat for specific
such as those with special cholesterol needs or people
trying to reduce weight
- lactose intolerant diners
- many religious dietary requirements (for example, vegan foods
are kosher and if the meal does not contain alcohol then vegan
food is halal, also is suitable for those who do not eat various
types of meat for religious reasons)
- vegan food is often more suitable for health conscious consumers.
This is backed up by the recent
Dietary Guidelines (2011) which states that "evidence suggests
Australians need to eat more vegetables, legumes/beans, fruits and
- those with certain allergies prefer vegan meals
- any customer looking for something a bit different
The Vegan Society NSW is campaigning for more vegan items on menus
because more vegan options in restaurants will make it easier for
people to become vegan and stay vegan. This will mean less
suffering and death for animals. It will also be better for the
environment, improve people's health and reduce the pressure on
food resources worldwide.
It often takes just a few small changes to make vegan food
available and in the process improve business. As well as
bringing in new customers most vegan food has the bonus of
being cheap with larger profit margins. Although you may
start with small changes there is little doubt that the more
effort you invest the more likely you are to end up with some
fantastic vegan choices.
Vegans represent a loyal customer base and are appreciative of
vegan options being provided - word of mouth spreads quickly
in the vegan community.
Quantitative evidence of an increase in demand for vegan menu items
Hard statistics about the number of vegans and the number of
people who at times eat vegan meals are somewhat hard to come by. This
is particularly true for Australia. A few that can be found are:
Some figures from the USA are included in the
for Animals restaurant campaign. (Note that Mercy for Animals
uses the terms vegetarian and vegan
interchangeably.) "While the number of vegetarians is growing
every year (an estimated 20 million in 2006), the number of
non-vegetarians who often order vegetarian meals at restaurants is
also growing dramatically. Consider these facts:
- The recently released 2011 draft
Guidelines states that "About 4% of respondents in the
National Nutrition Survey 1995 described themselves as vegetarian
or vegan. The food frequency questionnaire data recorded only 2%
as consuming no animal products, and a further 2% as restricting
consumption of animal foods to fish or white meat. Many more
people eat vegetarian meals regularly or occasionally."
- In Australia, consumption of animal products (measured as
calories per person) has fallen about 20% since the 1970s. -
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization database
Mercy for Animals states that "Americans are steadily adjusting
their eating habits to reduce or eliminate meat and other animal
products from their diets. The market for vegetarian food
products grew from $646 million in 1998 to $1.6 billion in 2003
and was projected to reach $2.5 billion in 2008." They also state
that "Vegans are the fastest growing segment of the vegetarian
population, and it is this population that should be the focus of
your new menu items." and that "the number of people ordering
vegan food at restaurants is growing exponentially."
- 57% of all restaurant-goers "sometimes," "often," or "always"
order a vegetarian item when dining out (Zogby International).
- The health and eco-conscious population contributed to the growth
of a $1.2 billion market for vegan goods (primarily dairy, egg, cheese
and meat substitutes), one that jumped 63.5% between 2000 and 2005
(New York Times, Jan. 11, 2007).
- 20% of adults favor restaurants with vegetarian options according
to a Gallup Organization Poll (National Restaurant Association).
- 35% of adults aged 45 to 64 regularly consume vegetarian foods and
milk alternatives, such as soy or rice milk (Mintel Consumer
- Non-vegetarians make up 80% of the customers who purchase meat
alternatives from Gardenburger, the number one selling brand of
meatless burgers (Gardenburger, Inc.).
- 23% of non-vegetarians consume meat alternatives (Washington Post,
Nov. 17, 2007)
In their article
many adults are vegan in the US, the Vegetarian Resource Group
state that 30% of Americans are "very interested in vegetarian
foods", even though they are not vegetarian.
Some statistics on the diets of young people in America can be
found in their survey
Youth Are Vegetarian?
A number of national restaurant chains in the USA are currently supplying
Influenced by an increasing awareness of what constitutes
healthy eating habits, an abundance of young people are also
eliminating animal products from their diets. Young people
have tremendous buying power and will carry these consumer
habits into adulthood. This information from the US
for Animals restaurant campaign:
More information can be found in the
for Animals Vegetarian Resource Guide for Restaurants and the
Society (UK) Vegan Catering for All pamphlet.
- 1 out of every 4 college students wants vegan meals
offered on campus (ARAMARK survey, 2004).
- Approximately one million school-aged children do
not eat red meat, poultry, or fish (Vegetarian Resource Group
There are at least 400,000 Australians who are vegan or vegetarian
for religous reasons. This includes approximately 250,000
Buddhists (about half of the 500,000 Buddists), 150,000 Hindus (about
half of 300,000 Hindus) and 1,200 Jains (almost all are
vegan or vegetarian).
Qualitative evidence of an increase in demand for vegan menu items
There are a number of other indications that the demand for vegan
menu items is increasing. Some of these are listed below.
- There is definitely a lot of activity and a marked increase in
reporting of veganism in the media. Animals Australia's exposure
in 2011 of the cruelty in the live animal export industry has
heightened people's awareness of animal welfare issues. Their
investigation generated 40,000 media stories. Animals Australia
have stated that no other investigation has inspired more people
to become vegetarian. More recently they have been investigating
the bobby calf issue and have been exposing this "secret" of the
dairy industry. Their focus is also increasingly moving towards
promoting veganism. For example in their Final Moments
investigation, they ask readers to choose one of two pledges. One
suggested pledge is "I pledge to help animals by taking all
animals off my plate." See
Australia Final Moments campaign.
- There are already many exclusively vegan restaurants in major
cities around Australia that are trading successfully. Some have
been trading for decades and the numbers increase yearly.
Business is expanding, with Trippy Taco, an all veg mexican place
in Melbourne, recently moving to larger premises.
- The number of specialist vegan businesses (food, clothing, etc) is
growing as demand increases.
- There is a lot of interest in vegan products from the general
public as evidenced by the attendance rates at
vegan/cruelty-free/green living expos and festivals around
Australia. Attendance numbers increase every year.
- Non-vegans make up a large percentage of the patronage of
existing vegan restaurants, showing that non-vegans also find
vegan food attractive.
- Several non-vegan restaurants already have a vegan section on the
menu. Some of these are fine dining establishments. Otto
Ristorante in Sydney has a vegan degustation menu and
has an impressive vegan menu.
- Some restaurants have several vegan options listed in their
"allergy" section. For example Montezuma's Mexican restaurants'
allergy chart (PDF).
- Even though not mentioned in their menu, many restaurants will
already cater for vegans. Given a few days' notice they will make
something for vegans coming as part of a group. These "specials"
could become the basis for a more well-advertised vegan menu.
- An example of the popularity of restaurants providing more
vegan items on their menu is this News article
"Aussie restaurants embrace meat-free".
Things individuals can do to encourage restaurants to offer vegan meals
- Get a group together and ring up a restaruant and ask to book
20 people in for a vegan meal.
- Order catering booklets from Vegan Society (UK) and Mercy for
Animals (see Links section) and take them into local restaurants
and ask them to improve their vegan options. Restaurants tend to
take a lot more notice of actual customers going in to see them
than the Vegan Society NSW contacting them. They probably see us
as a pressure group, but people in their local area are potential
paying customers so it's in their interest to listen.
Things the Vegan Society NSW plans to do
- Commission a poll to determine number of vegans in Australia and number
of people who consume vegan meals. This should come from a
respected polling company and be done in cooperation with other
vegan and animals rights groups in Australia.
- For particular restaurants, send examples of vegan versions of
the meals the restaurant already serves and list places to buy the
- Offer to help restaurants veganise some of their meals.
- List substitutes for sauces such as fish sauce.
- Establish a "vegan-friendly promise" scheme where restaurants
which always have at least one good vegan option on the menu send
us a sample menu and in return get a 'Vegans catered for here'
- Maintain a list of restaurants participating in the
"vegan-friendly promise" scheme and publish it regularly as a
pamphlet and a website. This has the dual benefit of providing a
resource to the community (especially for new vegans and
'vegan-curious') to help them find vegan-friendly food and
providing an incentive to the restaurants to get on board by
providing targeted advertising. This is similar to the campaign
run by Compassion Over Killing. See
Guide to Restaurant Outreach and
Restaurant Outreach Campaign.
- Host dinners at restaurants that can cater for vegans
- Create an Australian version of the
Cards distributed free by Compassion Over Killing. Also see
Thanks to the following for help in preparing this campaign:
Bruce Poon (Vegetarian Victoria),
Roy Taylor (Animal Activists Forum),
Renata Peters (Alice Springs Vegan Society),
John Brasted (Adelaide Vegans),
Geoff Russell (Animal Liberation South Australia),
John Davis (International Vegetarian Union),
Charley Roberts (Vegan Society (UK)),
Leigh-Chantelle Koch (Green Earth Group),
Maureen Collier (Vegetarian/Vegan Society of Queensland)
and Greg McFarlane, Maria Velardo and Tim Moore (all Vegan Society NSW).