Great Vegan Challenge participant Mark provides some feedback to restaurants on their provision for vegans and vegetarians…
To all chefs, cooks, restaurant managers and menu planners; an appeal on behalf of vegetarians and vegans.
As a long-time vegetarian and now vegan, it is wonderful how far restaurants have come in recent years in catering for those who don’t consume meat or fish, and I commend you for this. Unfortunately there is still a long way to go for those of us who have also chosen to not eat eggs and dairy. The following is just some thoughts you may want to consider when devising your menus. This is not intended as a criticism of your skills as chefs, particularly those of you I know personally who are all wonderful.
1. Goats cheese is not an exotic superfood that vegetarians have to or want to eat at every meal, and neither is haloumi. In the past it was ricotta and spinach cannelloni that was served almost everywhere, now it is goats cheese. It doesn’t matter how many fancy ways you dress it up – it is still goats cheese.
2. If you have more than one vegetarian option, is it really necessary for them all to contain cheese? I have seen this on so many menus.
3. If you are going to have more than one vegetarian option could you please make one of them vegan? There are thousands and thousands of vegan recipes out there – in fact many vegetarian recipes are or can be vegan – just not the ones with cheese in! Vegetarians will order vegan options if they are good enough. Jamie Oliver dedicated a whole section of his website to vegan food.
4. Also, if possible, please consider vegan starters and desserts – particularly desserts – as these are rarely, if ever catered for. Again, vegetarians will order vegan desserts. I went to a restaurant recently that offered a vegetarian chocolate brownie – this can easily be made vegan instead – there is also a Jamie Oliver recipe for this, which is superb.
5. I know that many of you will say that if I ring ahead then the chefs will be happy to adapt something or create something vegan – this is very nice of you, but it is something I am unlikely to do – I am more likely to choose somewhere else.
6. Some of you will no doubt say that that is my choice and you will not miss my custom, however, if I am arranging a night out for friends, most of whom are not vegetarian or vegan, I am going to choose a restaurant where there is something I can eat and therefore you will have lost the custom of a whole group of people.
7. From a purely business point of view, if you offer good vegetarian and vegan food then there are websites such as Happy Cow where you can advertise. These are seen nationwide and, because vegetarian/vegan restaurants are so hard to come by, people will often travel to see you. If I go to a new town or city I will always look on sites like this to find places to eat.
8. Finally, please change your vegetarian and vegan options every now and then. If there is only one thing on a menu I can eat then I will only visit once, maybe twice if it is really good.
Please feel free to share this with anyone you know, I would like as many people connected to restaurants as possible to see it and consider whether they might like to make eating out for vegetarians and vegans a little easier.