Kevin Plaut, co-owner of Still Riding Foods in Bloomfield, Connecticut, manufactures an allergen-free, vegan, gluten-free pizza crust for the foodservice industry. His company serves mostly pizza restaurants, and for good reason—he’s also a former owner of Harry’s Bishops Corner, a pizzeria in West Hartford, Connecticut, and he has 35 years of experience in the restaurant industry.
“Harry’s has been promoting gluten-free and vegan options for several years and continues to make it a larger part of the menu options,” Plaut explains. “In my current role, I try to help current restaurant owners who are looking to upgrade their menu to include more vegan options, as well as providing options for those with dietary restrictions. Lately, I’ve been working with Kobi Regev from Pleese Foods cheese; we’re doing more events and promos together. His product is very good, too!”
Here, in his own words, he shares some keys to success for pizzeria operators looking to expand into vegan offerings.
Above: Still Riding Foods' crust is safe for those with dietary restrictions, including vegans.
Today’s consumer is increasingly more aware of the foods that are available to them. This is leading to a revolution of customers who are making more informed decisions about the types of foods they eat, including choosing a vegan diet.
Therefore, for pizza restaurants and other foodservice providers, offering vegan options is becoming more important. Not only is the vegan community growing, but there is an overlay of consumers that either want or need to reduce and eliminate allergens from their diets. For some restaurant owners, this may present challenges, but it’s also a great opportunity to increase their exposure in this market.
Starting From Scratch
Many pizza restaurants have the resources to create a vegan menu. Here are some facts to keep in mind:
- Pizza dough, in many cases, is vegan. If the main ingredients are flour, salt, yeast, water and olive oil, then you have a vegan pizza dough!
- Replacing traditional mozzarella with vegan cheese is an excellent option for the vegan customer and for those with a dairy allergy. It’s a great substitute and has come a long way since the introduction of the product years ago. There are several new brands that have improved taste and texture, and they melt well. It is more expensive than traditional cheese, so an upcharge as a specialty item is common and recommended.
- Having a good base as your crust, in some cases, is all you need. Many vegans prefer to skip the nondairy cheese and enjoy the flavor of a well-seasoned fresh tomato sauce or roasted tomato base. A roasted garlic spread, nondairy pesto base or squash puree are also excellent options and provide adequate moisture for a pizza or flatbread.
- Of course, the wide and abundant variety of fresh vegetables commonly found on pizza menus are very popular for vegans (and all customers). Consider different cooking and preparation techniques such as roasting, grilling and sauteing, which create more interesting and flavorful vegan toppings.
- Meat substitutes have also come a long way. Vegan sausage and pepperoni are items to include in specialty pies that customers will appreciate.
Menu and Marketing
Creating and offering a vegan menu does not have to be difficult. Here are some pointers:
- The vegan section or offerings should stand out on your menu. Consider marking them with a vegan symbol or logo and highlight with green, which is often associated with vegan products.
- Cross-promote and group together food items that would be of interest to customers with gluten or dairy allergies. Many vegan customers often have food allergies.
- Include a short explanation of your restaurant’s commitment to providing vegan options to its customers.
Finally, here are some tips on marketing your pizza restaurant to the vegan community:
- Having a presence on websites and apps that cater to the vegan community is very important. These platforms are invaluable resources, as they provide restaurant reviews and comments, and serve as excellent directories for potential customers.
- Social media outlets, such as Instagram and Facebook, create obvious opportunities to showcase photos of your amazing vegan pizzas and what you are offering. Be sure to include all the right hashtags that will help connect you with the vegan community.
- Finally, and most importantly, make connections with your customers. They can provide you with valuable feedback, ideas and common trends that can help you design a successful vegan menu and increase profits.
So, as food trends continue to evolve and change and the demand for more vegan options increases, don’t miss out on the opportunity to expand your menu and business. There are simple ways to successfully accommodate this growing group of valuable patrons. They may just become your most loyal customers!
For more info on Plaut or Still Riding Foods, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out Instagram (@still_riding_foods).
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