Friday, February 18, 2011

Vegetarian Dishes at Restaurants

All restaurants should offer a few vegetarian selections. It's a smart business decision. First, not all omnivores want to eat meat at every single meal, nor do they need to. Second, most omni customers have at least one potential dining partner who is a vegetarian. When eating out together, they are most likely going to mutually agree on a place that meets both their needs.

A lot of restaurants fail to understand and accommodate this. The explanation I get is, "Well we just don't have a demand for those foods." Sounds a lot more like a failure to do market research than anything else. The customers who don't come through the door aren't demanding vegetarian foods, therefore you shouldn't offer them? Illogical.

We also know another thing about human nature--sometimes we just want to have choices, even if we don't use them. We want the Baskin Robbins 31 flavors but we usually get vanilla. Offering a few choices will play to what I call "vegetarians in the contemplation stage". Those are folks who are thinking about becoming vegetarian, or call themselves one but sometimes eat meat. (And YES, FISH IS MEAT.)

Anyway, it's not as if offering a few meat-free options is going to hurt anything. Keep a few cans of beans on hand and let guests choose between chicken or beans on a main dish salad. In the event you get an order, rinse the beans, add some fresh herbs. They could look really pretty and taste awesome.

Or how about a kick ass baked onion soup made with vegetable broth? Or a creamy mushroom noodle casserole?

If the goal is to bring more customers through the door, restauranteurs should make the vegetarian dishes delicious, not just tolerable. No one wants to pay $20 for some iceberg lettuce and canned beans. Be creative; make it delicious and different.

A lot of these dishes would be popular among all guests, not just vegetarians and people observing Lent. :)

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