3 Ways to Adapt to the Plant-Based Food Trend

plant-based food trend featuring impossible burgers

As the plant-based food trend continues on its rapid, upward trajectory, more and more restaurants are gearing up to meet changing demands. Sales of plant-based alternatives grew 17% over the past year, while overall U.S. food sales rose only 2%. Grubhub’s 2018 Year in Food report saw vegan-friendly bean burritos and buffalo cauliflower spike in popularity. Red meat, however, did not make the list. These numbers mean one thing: the plant-based trend is more than a fad.

Historically associated with veganism, plant-based foods have gained mainstream traction in recent years due to growing interest in food sustainability, health, and animal welfare. Merriam-Webster officially entered “flexitarian” into the dictionary, a term that describes those who limit their meat and dairy intake significantly, but not absolutely. In short, plant-based food isn’t just for vegans anymore.

Engaging a growing base of vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian diners may seem like a daunting task, especially for a steakhouse or BBQ brand, but it’s a great way to get a larger variety of customers in the door. Below are three ways to get on the plant-based wagon without diverting from your bread and butter.

Include Plant-Based Offerings on Your Menu

Sometimes a salad just doesn’t cut it. With a little innovation, you can create a hearty meat-free meal that complements your traditional fare. Meat-centric brands, such as TGI Fridays and Burger King, are getting creative with their menu offerings to attract plant-based diners. At TGI Fridays, you can now order a realistic plant-based burger made from Beyond Meat and served up with a heap of fries. Burger King recently announced a partnership with Impossible Foods; they plan to roll out plant-based Whoppers nationwide after their St. Louis pilot went “exceedingly well.”

A complete menu overhaul isn’t necessary, and small inclusions can secure a loyal fanbase. Faux fish, seitan steak, and BBQ jackfruit are great offerings to entice current and new diners.

Label Menus and Increase Visibility

Before you jump to the drawing board, don’t overlook what you already have on your menu. Taco Bell, the first American Vegetarian Association certified quick-service brand, has long been a safe haven for vegans and vegetarians. It’s common for diners to order their food meat-free by modifying or substituting existing menu items. In fact, Taco Bell says 9% of all orders are meatless. Earlier this year, the brand announced an initiative to expand and legitimize vegetarian offerings on the menu. Since April 4th, Dallas locations have been testing new menu boards featuring items crafted especially for vegetarians no substitutions needed!

Labeling items on your menu is a great way to accommodate not only vegans, but people with other dietary restrictions or allergies. It’s common for diners to check an online menu prior to choosing a place to eat. Your menu may be the last barrier to customer acquisition, so if you have meat-free options, make it obvious!

Capture Customer Data and Market Accordingly

It’s easy to identify those guests that are most likely to order plant-based foods when you have a trove of customer data at your disposal. By using data to segment your meat-free customers, you’re able to craft personalized campaigns and incentives that will build brand affinity and drive sales. Furthermore, by identifying and engaging with the biggest fans of your vegan fare, you can generate brand ambassadors who may convince their peers to jump on the bandwagon.

Enable your guests to identify their dietary preferences when signing up for your loyalty program or placing an online order. At Taco Bell, vegetarian or vegan customers can order online through a webpage organized just for them, as well as through their app. On the sweetgreen app, identifying dietary preferences is an optional part of the user’s account setup. Once enabled it is easy to filter out dishes with meat, dairy, or allergens that the diner may be avoiding. On the user end, this creates a personalized ordering experience. On the brand’s end, this generates useful customer data. The more you know, the more direct your messaging will be.

guests identifying their dietary preferences for plant-based foods

Don’t forget to evaluate the performance of new items. By prompting feedback in-store or through your digital channels, you can see which items are making an impact and which ones need tweaking. Including vegan options to your menu is about more than simply covering your bases — it’s about driving sales.

As 2019 continues, more restaurants will introduce plant-based options in order to meet the shifting demands of the industry. However, unlike other food “fads,” this one isn’t backing down any time soon.

What’s next? Stay up-to-date with more industry trends by subscribing to our blog:

Morgan Burke

Morgan Burke

Morgan is on the Inside Sales team at LevelUp. She’s passionate about green energy and sustainable agriculture. Favorite pastimes include being outdoors & crafting up insane vegan junk food recipes. Someday, she hopes to be able to keep houseplants alive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *