Where should you put the vegan options on your menu?

Decisions, decisions, decisions… now you’ve created your plant-based dishes and they’re ready to go onto the menu – great! But where exactly on the menu should they go? 

(Luckily these decisions don’t have to be made when you transform your entire menu into a plant-based one!)

It depends…

As with many things in life this is dependent upon other factors such as your menu structure up until now, the type of food you’re offering, how many vegan dishes you are adding and the preferences of your guests. 

In general there are three different options: either you make a completely separate vegan menu on an extra page with starters, mains and desserts, you can also simply add the vegan option into every section and label them as vegan or, and this is most often done when the menu is already split into meat / fish / vegetarian, you add the vegan dishes in the vegetarian section. In the following we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option and under which circumstances you should option for which type. 

Separate vegan menu (additional page / additional flyer) 

Displaying the new vegan food items on a separate vegan menu, like for example a new page or an additional flyer is a popular option, especially when testing out the new dishes without making changes to the regular menu. We’d only recommend for this option though if you are adding at least 2-3 dishes per category as otherwise the page or flyer would simply look too empty and imply that there aren’t enough choices (unless you are working with a promotional flyer rather than a menu style with pictures and further information). Another thing to keep in mind is that, especially when having another flyer or separate menu card, the menu always needs to be available and staff needs to ensure that customers can easily find it.

The reason why this is not our favourite approach is due to the fact that plant-based food is being excluded from the other food, which does not help to normalize vegan food or inspire non-vegans to try it.

Vegan options within the menu

Simply adding the new plant-based food items onto the menu where ever they fit best (e.g. under ‘salads’, ‘mains’) is a great method. By doing so, one prevents giving vegan food a special status, makes it seem more ‘normal’ and encourages non-vegans to give it a try (as they probably wouldn’t be looking for food on a separate menu). This also works very well with seasonally changing menus as they will get an update regularly anyways and dishes that are not popular can be adjusted and new ‘trendy’ or seasonal dishes can be added.

There are so many people who identify as ”flexitarian” that wont actively seek out a vegan menu but once they see that there are options they will be excited o try them.

One thing that is crucial here is the labelling of the dishes. Vegan, vegetarian and even gluten-free dishes should be clearly labelled by either adding the allergens or creating a label that clearly indicates what type of dish it is. Make sure to add the key of the labels to the menu for ease of use.

It can be highly frustrating to see a V on the menu and not know if this means vegetarian or vegan.

Vegan options in the vegetarian section

Some dining venues operate with a menu that is split into different meat / fish / vegetarian sections (this is often the case in the Asian cuisine). In this case it is easiest and probably most logical for the customer to add the fully plant-based options in the vegetarian section and adding either a label to the vegan dishes, adding the allergens or simply using the word ‘vegan’ / ‘plant-based’ in the name of the dish. The latter is a popular option, however has both it’s pro’s and con’s: on the one hand vegan dishes are easily identified by people looking for them when they have it in their name, on the other hand this might again have a negative effect on having non-vegans try these dishes as they might immediately wrongly associate them with bland, low calorie and low protein food.

In the end, it’s totally up to you how you want to approach the launch of plant-based food at your business. Just know that copying what your neighbouring restaurant is doing is not always the smartest strategy. Don’t hesitate to contact us if we can have a look over your menu or you have any specific open questions / comments on this!

Congratulations on adding vegan options to your menu! Don’t forget to ensure the labelling is clear on your website/social media pages so that you are attracting vegans to come and dine with you and enjoy all of the new business this brings, not only from vegans themselves but also their friends, family & colleagues that they bring with them!


Images: From LaMoo Restaurant