With the plant-based food market expected to exceed $162 billion over the next 10 years, chef Rebecca Carucci, owner of Powered by Plants Consulting, says it is time to get serious about offering meatless alternatives on restaurant menus. “Two things restaurant owners often don’t take into account” says Carucci. “First, in most cases it's the vegan in the group doing the research to find a restaurant for everyone to go to, so they are not stuck eating the same old tired, veggie burger found on every menu. Second, plant-based menu items are a great way to help keep food cost in line.
Rebecca Carucci is a plant-based consultant, and certified in plant-based nutrition, whose mission is to help restaurant owners navigate the plant-based world by working with them to add enticing and delicious menu options. Options that will lure not just vegans and vegetarians, but their “flexitarian” and meat-eating friends too. “So many restaurateurs think that their vegan and vegetarian customers will be satisfied with one or two clichéd dishes like a veggie burgers or pasta primavera. They may have been able to get away with that 10 years ago, but the growing health and environmentally conscience consumer today is looking for more,” explains Carucci.
Carucci who got her Plant-Based Nutrition Certification through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at eCornell, has extensive experience in the food business. Having worked in fine dining and casual, front and back of the house, her number one goal when she works with a restaurant is to make them more money, but it also goes a lot further.
For her it is a win-win. Adding interesting plant-based menu items, attracts new business and keeps food costs down. “It’s a smart business move to give customers alternatives to high priced meat options”, Carucci tells us. And while people are consuming less meat in general, the plant-based alternatives are booming. With vegan food becoming more in the mainstream, according to Carucci, not offering vegan options might actually be hurting a restaurants’ bottom line.
But of course, for Carucci, it is not just about making money. For her it’s also about providing the whole experience by making sure the food is delicious for all customers to enjoy. It’s about personalizing the menu to the restaurant’s clientele, price point, atmosphere, and cuisine. In addition to full-service restaurants, quick serve, Cafés and coffee shops, juice bars, and natural food stores can also benefit from offering more plant-based options to their customers.
Carucci says it’s understandable, that with all restaurant owners must do to keep their business running on a day-to-day basis, coming up with menu items and marketing to a vegan audience might be overwhelming. But as she sees it, every day that goes by is a wasted opportunity to please a growing customer base and ultimately make money. By diversifying your menu, you can win over new customers without alienating your regulars. Options such as exciting, imaginative toppings for the Impossible burgers, cauliflower steaks or a hearty winter vegetable stew can be a hit for everyone, even meat eaters.
Think about this, according to recent studies one third of diners who are between the ages of 18-34, 25% of the population, are actively seeking out plant-based entrees on menus. Offering options that are not only healthy for people, but for the planet too, offer marketing opportunities to position a restaurant as supporting the community and the environment. Not to mention, how the increasing focus on the benefits of a plant-based diet in the news headlines, allows a restaurant to capitalize on the free exposure.
Millennials are considered a driving force when it comes to the increasing movement to plant-based meat alternatives. A recent survey showed that 41% of millennials regularly included plant-based meat alternatives in their diet. With the millennial spending an excess of $2.5 trillion dollars, of which their biggest expense is food, the power of this generation should not be overlooked when it comes to what's on the menu. Especially when the impact a business makes on society matters to them. In fact, 33% of millennials state that they no longer support business that they thought did harm to the environment. They would much rather support a business that has a positive influence.
The rest of Carruci’s message to restaurant owners, “We are not looking at a trend here, we are looking at a tipping point”. adding plant-based appetizers, entrees and desserts on your menu may be an untapped business opportunity, you don’t want to miss out on.
~Rebecca Carruci is a plant-based consultant and certified in plant-based nutrition who offers comprehensive consulting services for restaurants. If you are a restaurant and could use some help updating your menu with new and exciting plant-based items, click here to learn more.