Mistakes you may make when adding vegan options to your menu

Vegans travel for food! The furthest I have ever travelled for vegan food was South Africa to Bali & it was so good I returned for a month!

Because vegans make an effort to support businesses with vegan options, we can easily spot the mistakes restaurant owners, managers, chefs and staff are making when introducing new vegan options to a menu. Also, when you have worked in hospitality for as long as I have (25 years!) you tend to notice everything!

I’ve compiled a few of the top & common mistakes that restaurants, hotels & lodges make when adding vegan options to their menus (but also want to say – thanks for trying!)

1. Missing out on ‘veganizing’ the entire dish

Imagine this: you are super proud that you are finally adopting plant-based food onto your menu – instead of beef burgers you are now offering a self-made quinoa-bean burger patty and think it’s delicious! Good job! But don’t forget to ensure that everything else on that dish is vegan too. Did you check if the burger bun contains any milk or eggs? How about the sauce? Is it completely animal-free? This is only one example, and it even happens to the biggest restaurant chains! Just recently Burger King launched a new vegan burger and the mayonnaise on there was not vegan. This is only one example – but can be applied anywhere. Too often we came across delicious vegan ice cream only to realize that the ice cream cones were not plant-based, think – bigger picture!

2. Not labelling the dish as plant-based on the menu

Never expect your guests to know if a dish is vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free unless you label it this way everywhere where the dish is listed. This does not only include the menu, but also written signs that you might have around your location or menus on food delivery platforms. One more thing about labels: there is a big difference between a vegetarian and a vegan dish so it’s smart to make it easy for the guest to see that difference as well.

3. Lack of staff knowledge about the ingredients

There’s nothing worse than looking forward to an amazing plant-based dish and then losing the interest by the time you order it because of the lack of knowledge and interest of the waiter or staff. Ensuring that the customer-facing staff is knowledgeable about the existence, ingredients and taste of the new dishes is crucial to the success of the launch. So, make sure to get your employees onboard of the change and have them taste the dishes as well. Staff training is highly underestimated & is critical to a successful business.

4. Not sharing the menu additions through marketing campaigns

Especially when short on cash many restaurant owners reduce marketing spendings. But that is in fact one of the worst things to do when launching a new vegan menu. It’s not to say that marketing campaigns have to be expensive, but one has to understand the following: at this point most plant-based eaters do not randomly sit down at a café or restaurant. They do research about where they can find the best vegan options. So not talking about it online or offline is most likely not going to bring you in this new clientele. Market your vegan dishes the same way you would the rest of your meals & you can reach a huge audience is you know where to market this, think about pages you can post onto, events you can attend, even hashtags you can use.

5. Overpricing the vegan options 

You’re not only adding vegan options to your menu to be a better person, contribute more positively to the environment and also avoid animal suffering, you also want to increase your revenue! That’s fine and that’s how it should be. Organic food has long been known as always being overpriced and easily to make money with. However, often businesses aren’t pricing dishes correctly, for example maybe you are using a vegan cheese on a vegan version of your lasagne that is more expensive than a dairy version so you look at your traditional meat lasagne cost & add extra for vegan cheese but what other ingredients go into this dish? For example, ground meat is much more expensive than lentils which is a common substitute. Be fair in your pricing to attract vegans.

6. Limiting the plant-based options to the main course

To be vegan-friendly or appeal to plant-based eaters adding a couple of plant-based main courses without paying attention to the remaining sections of the menu is not going to help you to your success. There’s nothing worse than having a limited number of choices or not being able to indulge into a creamy dessert when this is what the entire (non-vegan) rest of the family is having. My pet hate is being offered a fruit platter when everyone around me is eating a chocolate brownie.

7. Lack of availability 

Nothing is more frustrating than looking forward to something and then being disappointed. Of course, the demand of your new menu items can be much higher than anticipated and that might bring you in jeopardy during the launch (try to avoid it though) but ensure stable availability of your plant-based food items at all times – and if something is not available ensure that communication about it is friendly and apologetic. It will help to learn which products you can freeze & which you can’t.

8. Tasteless and basic plant-based food

Plant-based food doesn’t have to be bland at all, but it can be – just like any other food. The problem is only that plant-based food often has the stereotype of being tasteless, people look at tofu & think – flavourless, but a plain chicken breast without any marinade, herbs or spices will be just as bland. So before launch, ensure the menu items are delicious, full of flavour and have been tried and approved by different people.

9. Vegan options are in-line with your food concept

Tasted some amazing vegan sushi at your friend’s house or went for vegan gyros during your vacation and liked it so much that you want to offer it to your guests? Wait a minute – never just offer something plant-based just because it’s delicious, you have to ensure that the vegan dish compliments your concept. Vegans will want to come to experience your dishes – just veganized!

10. The drinks are forgotten

A surprising number of drinks (such as juices, beers or wines) are not naturally vegan, so including a vegan drinks list or labelling your exisiting drinks list with the options that are vegan will really impress your vegan customers & ensure that they have an all-round excellent experience.


All points covered here in this blog I help businesses with, as a certified vegan hospitality consultant my services are tailored to suit the needs of the business from recipe development, menu creations, drinks list, staff training & everything in-between. If you are interested in finding out more about my services, you can email me on hayley@wilddreams.co.za to book a free 30-minute consultation.

I work globally with all hospitality businesses & offer both remote & in-person consulting & am also the creator of global first vegan hospitality online trainings.

Let’s get your business ready for the influx of vegan guests & customers!