By Alex Koons, Hot Tongue Pizza
A lot goes into successfully implementing anything new in a restaurant. Adding something to a menu can quickly turn into a lot of work, but with the demand for vegan options steadily on the rise—and with no end in sight—now is a good time to make sure you, your menu and your staff are set up for plant-based success.
Here are three simple changes you can start implementing today that will set up your restaurant to thrive the next time someone walks into your restaurant looking for vegan options.
Basic Staff Training
The first key to a successful vegan offering is to make sure that your team understands exactly what makes your new offering vegan. You want to make sure they understand the new ingredients and how they’re used. Make sure your employees taste the food and know how to prepare and plate it.
Let’s talk about cheese for a second. Now, cheese is a magical thing—I won’t deny it. From the way it melts to the way it tastes, it’s very hard to compete with. Vegan “cheese” is an entirely different beast than its dairy counterpart and should be treated as such. Its job is to replace a texture, and a general rule of thumb here is that less is more.
Ingredients like vegan "cheese" can be pricey, and the last thing you want is for your staff to use too much on anything. I always recommend weighing or using measuring cups when preparing the food for cost and consistency. Understanding melting temperatures, proportions and any other vegan toppings is imperative to creating a delicious slice. I believe good pizza is all about the right balance of flavors and textures. Find that balance.
“I put a vegan option on the menu, but nobody ever orders it!” Does this sound familiar?
It’s so important to make sure that any new vegan items—and all existing items, for that matter—are clearly labeled. Whether you use an asterisk or a “VG,” make sure it’s crystal clear. It doesn’t matter if it’s one item or 10—label them! Or, better yet, put them in their own little section on the menu with a box around it.
Don’t forget about those things that are already accidentally vegan. Fries? Vegan! Salad with Italian dressing that’s plant-based, baby? Bam. Vegan! Label it.
No one likes to treasure hunt for things on a menu. Proper labeling will help your staff easily direct your guests to the vegan offerings, reduce friction for customers, and will most likely speed up the ordering process.
Cross Contamination Awareness
Explaining to your staff about cross-contamination and implementing a process to separate vegan proteins and “cheeses” from their animal-based counterparts is a crucial step. It’s important to be overly sensitive with surfaces and cooking stations, especially if you have an open kitchen. You already understand this if you’re using meat and dairy products; you just need to take it one step further when dealing with plant-based offerings.
Suppose you are adding fried cauliflower to your menu, but you have only one fryer that is also used for your wings. Just be up-front about it. On the menu you could say: “Cauliflower Wings (V) (fried in the same fryer as all other apps)”.
This kind of thing goes a long way in the eyes of customers. More people than not will be just fine with this situation. We all know as owner/operators that we can’t make everyone happy. The effort in being transparent on your menu is more important than not offering the item at all because you think you need to go out and buy a whole other piece of equipment to do so. If you have the money and funds to buy a separate fryer, do it! If not, just be transparent.
You know damn well that Burger King is making their Impossible Whoppers on the same flattop as their ground beef, and 90% of people don’t care.
There you go—you’re on your way to a becoming vegan master! I hope these three simple ideas will help you create and launch killer vegan menu items. Get the staff on board, figure out a safe process for prep and food handling, and make sure to shine a spotlight on your vegan offerings. It’s always the little things that matter most, but they’re the easiest to overlook. Good luck and Godspeed!
Return to articles