So you want to open a vegan restaurant in a town where you’re one of the few vegans? Or perhaps everyone around you hears the word “Vegan” and darts in the opposite direction, because the word brings back memories of encountering an aggressive (possibly partly naked!) animal rights activist? Maybe they’ve tasted some prepackaged, processed vegan food, and to them, vegan = “tastes like cardboard, grass, etc.” Whatever the challenge may be, we’ve got good news – you have no reason to give up on that dream!
Assuming you have the money and necessary experience to embark on such endeavor, here are 5 simple tips that can help make that dream a reality, no matter where you are:
1. Leverage the health benefits of a plant-based diet
While animal use and treatment is undoubtedly the most important issue, there are several health and environmental benefits of eating vegan. Here’s a practical fact – most people don’t like to make changes in their life or try something new unless they feel like it directly benefits them in some way. We’re also animals after all! Hence, people may be more easily persuaded to try a vegan restaurant if the health benefits were made clear to them. Organic food, eco-consciousness and healthy eating are now in the forefront of everyone’s minds, no matter where they live. All you need to do is be creative and embrace the trend by using sustainable materials in your restaurant, doing your best to source produce locally and including several healthy options in your menu. Further, do your best to highlight the fact that eating plants has been found to help reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure and some cancers. The bottom line is all vegan food, if prepared correctly is infinitely healthier than non-vegan options, so this should be an easy sell that will help you and your customers!
2. Veganize your local favorites
Add items to your menu that are veganized versions of dishes people in your town or country may be familiar with. Make your own seitan and tofu to use as vegan replacements for animal flesh in popular local dishes. No matter where you are, you have a much better chance of convincing your prospective customers to try your food if it includes flavors that they are familiar with. You don’t have to fill your entire menu with these items, but present them as healthier versions of traditional favorites. This may help draw people who suffer from lachanophobia (a pathological fear of vegetables!) and may help them ease into some of the other options on your menu.
3. Get creative with vegetables
People who say they dislike vegetables (or think they do), have probably never tasted vegetables made the right way and with the right flavors. Draw inspiration from ethnic cuisines in Asia, where vegetables play a central role in most meals and herbs, spices, chili sauces and pastes add tremendous flavor to every dish. Make people realize that fresh greens and vegetables can come in more forms than just salad. Veggies can be grilled, baked, steamed, roasted and stir fried to create an endless combination of mouthwatering dishes that can win over even the most skeptical omnivore. Your goal should be to give people a taste of something they’ve never had before, so it completely changes their notion of plant-based food and opens their minds to a whole new paradigm of possibilities.
4. Two words — Vegan Baking!
You can’t call yourself a vegan restaurant worth its salt if you don’t offer a selection of delectable baked goodies. Refer to our vegan dessert substitution guide if you are just getting started. If you don’t want to buy soy, almond or other plant-based milks, learn how to make them yourself. You don’t even need ready-made egg and butter replacements to make sweet vegan goodies – this article breaks down the art of veganizing popular baked goods recipes in creative ways. Remember, there’s no easier way to win over a die-hard omnivore than by giving them a delicious sweet treat that will help overcome any preconceived notions they may have about baking without animal products.
5. Run your restaurant with some heart
No matter what kind of food is on your menu, or where you are located, the restaurant business is tough and there’s always an element of risk involved. As a vegan establishment, you obviously will have to deal with many challenges, but you also have several inherent strengths that you should focus on. Make sure that your restaurant exudes the compassion and qualities that you live by. Create a welcoming place that can become a hub for all things connected with healthy living, respecting our planet and the animals that inhabit it. Don’t preach to your customers about your ethics, but let them discover it themselves, through your attentive service, delectable food and vegan positivity. They may not be drawn in by the vegan message at first, but make them return for the vegan experience.