29 Sep 2021
When you reduce the meat, fish or dairy content of an individual dish, the change should go unnoticed. But when launching plant-based options, you’ll want them to attract attention. There are several ways you can encourage your customers to choose new and different dishes, some subtle and some overt.
Rewarding customers for choosing a vegetarian or plant-based option will encourage them to establish healthier and more sustainable habits. A loyalty card is a great way to do this – something that we piloted at Portsmouth University in the early days of Kale Yeah!.
It can also bring benefits to your business. By linking a loyalty scheme to the booming interest in plant-based eating, you can build a customer base that will choose you over your competitors. Loyal customers are also more likely to spend more per visit: research carried out by the Harvard Business School found that even a 5% increase in customer retention could lead to an increase in profits of 25-95%.
Read our guide to launching a plant-based loyalty scheme.
Psychology plays a big part in encouraging healthy eating habits. You can guide your customers towards choosing the plant-based options by employing some of these tips:
- Place plant-based options at the top of the menu to indicate they are impressive rather than inferior.
- Mix your plant-based options in with all the other dishes so that those options catch everyone’s eye. Separate veggie and vegan menus, or separate sections within menus, are helpful for those who are already veggie or vegan but are likely to be shunned by meat-eaters.
- Remember the adage “eye level equals buy level”. Put healthy, plant-based options where they’ll be seen instead of tucked away or on the bottom shelf.
- Increase your veggie options. Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that doubling the vegetarian options on menus reduced meaty purchases without denting overall food sales.
- A second study carried out by the same researchers found that sales of meat-free dishes were boosted by placing them first on the serving counter and leaving around a one metre gap between them and the meaty options.
Language and labelling
How you name and describe dishes will also have an impact on how much they are chosen.
To tempt the taste buds, use descriptions that mention origin, cooking style and other evocative qualities. For example, roasted cauli with harissa chickpeas, blackened tempeh and avocado tacos and spicy Szechuan noodles with peanut sauce.
Avoid names that are boring or that flag what’s missing, such as "vegetable curry" and "meat-free lasagne". Creamy coconut and sweet potato curry and mushroom and spinach lasagne sound so much more appealing!
Keep labelling discreet so as not to deter meat-eaters. Signpost veggie and vegan options with a small symbol or lettering, eg "vg" and "ve".
Make main courses free of meat as the default and offer portions of meat as a side dish or extra.
Provide plant milk for tea and coffee at no extra cost.
Enable customers to choose dairy-free cheese on any pizza or baked potato.
Downloads you can use
Use the images and promotional materials we've designed to help spread the word about Kale Yeah! in available spaces, both online and offline.
As well as university events, use national events and campaigns to promote more plant-based eating, for example:
- Veganuary (each January)
- British Sandwich Week (each May)
- National Vegetarian Week (each May)
- World Food Day (each October 16)
- World Vegan Month (November)
- Meat-free days?
In general, people don’t like being dictated to or having their choice taken away, so restricting what’s available could cause a backlash. Making wholesale changes across your menus to reduce meat, fish and dairy is less obvious but just as effective. Our Rebalanced Menu Guide illustrates how you can reduce the overall amount of meat you’re serving – by beyond 50% – but still keep it on the menu every day.
However, if you're interested in setting up a meat-free day, or if students bring this proposal to you, make sure you engage the wider student and staff body in the discussion and seek their input from the start. If you present them with an opportunity to air their views and make a democratic decision, there's a better chance of the proposal being received with success. Work with the Students Union or other relevant clubs and societies.