Step by Step guide to starting a vegan kitchen

With veganism booming both internationally and locally here in South Africa, it is important that the safari lodges recognize this fast-growing movement and are not only ‘’getting by’’ accommodating & catering to vegan guests requests but actually start attracting them to their lodges. Now is the time for innovation.

One major aspect of this is of course, the meals.

Vegans unfortunately will more than likely have a few food related horror stories (I know I do!) & the reality is, when they go to stay at a lodge they are putting their trust in the staff, ultimately hoping that they can serve them based on their requirements.

When someone is on holiday, they really don’t want to worry about anything, it should be relaxing & enjoyable.

Consider this your 10-step guide on how to start a vegan kitchen & beyond…

Step 1. Do some research to really understand your vegan customer, what their wants are, what their needs are and why this is. If you do not understand them then you may be setting yourself up for failure before you have even looked at the food.

Step 2. You should review your current menus and see if you have any dishes that are already vegan that you were not aware of, or any that can be easily tweaked to be made vegan, think vegetable soup served on a winters night at your boma dinner, remove the cream or replace it with coconut cream & ensure you only use veggie stock – simple, that is now always going to be vegan.

Step 3. In addition to reviewing your standard menus look at all the ‘’extras’’ your lodge serves, such as, the cookies, rusks, cakes, muffins, game drive snacks and see what you can veganize here as standard. Think morning muffins, where typically you have one standard recipe which you change the flavour of daily, why not use an amazing vegan muffin recipe as standard instead.

Step 4. Create some excellent, nutritionally balanced vegan meals for your menu, think macro & micronutrients. They need to look and taste great and fit into the theme/style & budget of your lodge.

Step 5. Label your menu clearly so that your vegan guests know exactly what they can and cannot eat. There can be no confusion, does your V = vegan or vegetarian? Do not forget to label your drinks menu too!

Step 6. Make sure you have protocols in place in the kitchen to avoid cross contamination, such as, are you using the deep fryer to fry battered fish as well as your chips? Are you using the same chopping board that you cut up a steak on to cut up your tofu?

Step 7. Make sure both the kitchen staff and the FOH staff such as the servers, bar staff, hosts are trained in understanding vegan customers, what dishes on the menu are vegan, what ingredients are used, how each is cooked and how to serve vegan customers. For example, are they going to offer a vegan butter or an olive oil/balsamic vinegar with the bread rolls, did they give them the bread rolls without the egg wash on?

Step 8. Advertise you are vegan friendly! I cannot stress how important this is. Doing marketing about this and being as detailed as possible is critical. Use food photos to showcase your new vegan options, show photos of your staff being trained, talk about what you have in place to ensure your vegan guests have the same experience as your traditional guests and if they come to your lodge, they will not need to worry about anything & can just relax, like everyone should when on holiday.

Step 9. Look at what other aspects you can change or become vegan friendly. Remember veganism isn’t only about the food, your spa products, room décor & amenities, wine & drinks list are all part of it.

Step 10. Think bigger picture! – Sustainable travel is not just a ‘’buzz word’’ this is what not only vegans but most of your traditional guests are taking into account when they book their holiday. If you have proven sustainable practices in place, you can let your guests know, having plant-based options on your menu all the time, encouraging all guests to try them lowers the impact we have on the planet through animal agriculture & fishing. Do your bit for the planet & get bookings from this at the same time.

This may sound a bit daunting and if you need assistance creating a vegan friendly environment in your lodge or hospitality establishment (above & beyond the food too) then reach out to me for a free consultation.

I am a hospitality professional with 22 years of experience in the industry, both locally & internationally.

I am currently the only certified vegan hospitality consultant in Africa & my mission is to help the industry become vegan friendly in Africa & beyond.

My services are tailored to your companies’ requirements & can be offered in person or as a fully remote service.

I am also the first person offering personalized trainings on veganism to lodge specific staff such as field guides, housekeepers, FOH & chefs.

For more information go to my website & click on vegan consulting or send me an email.