10 ways to make your restaurant more vegan-friendly

Vegan mini tacos

Vegan mini tacos at the Parker, a vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver. (Stephen Hui)

These days, vegan food is more popular than ever. As vegans make up a small fraction of the population, many vegetarians and omnivores are clearly helping drive the trend.

Nevertheless, there’s still a lot of restaurants out there that either don’t cater to vegans (and vegan-food lovers) or don’t do it well. If your eatery is one of them, I’ve put together the following list to help you broaden your customer base.

Here’s 10 different ways you can make your omnivore or vegetarian restaurant more vegan-friendly.

1. Offer more than just a token vegan option

Contrary to popular belief, not all vegans like salad (or subsist on veggie burgers).

2. Label vegan options clearly on the menu

The word vegan or the letter V (defined as meaning “vegan” somewhere on your menu) will do.

3. Say good-bye to vegan options that involve removing ingredients from omnivore or vegetarian dishes

That’s just sad. Instead, you could offer substitutions, such as vegan versions of mayonnaise and bacon, and—even better—dishes that are vegan by default.

4. Don’t charge extra for vegan options

Surcharges for dairy-free cheese and plant milks are the opposite of vegan-friendly.

5. Have a separate vegan menu

Vegans love fully vegan restaurants because they can order anything off the menu. This is the next-best thing.

6. Don’t confuse vegan and gluten-free

For some reason, many restaurants seem to think vegan and gluten-free are the same or related. But they’re entirely different things.

7. Make sure the vegan options are actually vegan

Did you know most margarine isn’t vegan? Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey are definitely not vegan.

8. Keep vegan ingredients in good supply

You always seem to have enough hamburger meat and cow’s milk cheese on hand, so why would you (frequently) run out of vegan cheese and coconut milk ice cream?

9. Test vegan options on omnivores

If they don’t like them, neither will many vegans. Plus, many vegetarians and omnivores, who may observe Meatless Monday or just enjoy the food, will order a great vegan dish.

10. Stop serving foie gras

Even if there’s a separate vegan menu, many vegans won’t dine at any restaurant that serves force-fed duck or goose liver, also known as “torture in a tin”.

What else can restaurants do to be more vegan-friendly? Please share your thoughts in the comments, or tell us on Facebook and Twitter.

9 thoughts on “10 ways to make your restaurant more vegan-friendly

  1. I love this list. Here are a few I’d add:
    * Don’t upcharge for additions (say, avocado slices, or brown rice instead of white) if the person has already said “hold the cheese and the sour cream.”
    * Train your servers/cashiers to be knowledgeable about what’s vegan and what isn’t (which sandwich bread options are vegan? Is there cheese in the Italian dressing?) and make sure they can easily look up answers to such questions if they forget.
    * For baristas: Don’t just put the drink on the counter and say, “here you go.” Repeat the order so that I know for sure that it’s not someone else’s order, and that you did remember/hear that I ordered soy and a single shot. Many baristas do this, but I wish everyone did!

  2. Making sure the vegan option is actually vegan. *sigh* I have been let down too many times because a restaurant didn’t seem to know what vegan meant! It’s like they put it on the menu as a “trendy” term!

  3. This is good advice but could go one step further in defining terms. I’m a non meat eater (over 25 years) who probably makes vegan dishes at home without knowing it, but I’m still unclear on the rules.

    • Check out what the Vegan Society says about vegan food:

      “Vegans choose not to eat anything which is taken from animals, for example:

      - No meat, fish nor other substances that come directly from killing an animal, such as animal fats and gelatine
      - No dairy products such as cows milk, cheese and yogurt; nor goats milk
      - No eggs nor foods containing eggs such as Quorn
      - No honey”

      Source: http://www.vegansociety.com/lifestyle/food/

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