The Monday Campaigns, the nonprofit organization behind the global Meatless Monday movement, held a discussion featuring four restaurant industry leaders at the recent International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. The discussion addressed how restaurants can leverage the plant-based or vegetarian trend on menus.
Diana Rice, Meatless Monday registered dietitian and recipe editor, moderated the panel, which included Josh Bernstein, executive chef, The Shannon Rose Irish Pub, Clifton and Ramsey, NJ; Nicole Marquis, president & ceo, Marquis & Co LLC, HipCityVeg, Philadelphia; Jason Weiner, executive chef and owner, Almond, NYC and Bridgehampton, and Matt Weingarten, culinary director, Dig Inn, NYC.
Here are some key insights from the panelists:
Q: How are you leveraging the vegetarian or plant-based trend in your establishment?
“We know that Monday is our biggest day at Dig Inn to draw customers who want to start the week off fresh. So we offer them multi-faceted vegetarian options.” Matt Weingarten
“We leverage customer interest in vegetables through Almond’s Meatless Monday menu. It allows for vegetables to be the focus … the main story.” Jason Weiner
“By highlighting our vegetarian offerings at The Shannon Rose, we are able to expand our customer base.” Josh Bernstein
“HipCityVeg caters to a young audience who wants to eat well and do something good for the environment. Thus, we emphasize our connection to healthy plant-based food.” Nicole Marquis
Q: Can you share tips, based on your first-hand experience, for restaurants to successfully promote plant-based menus to their customers?
“We get our front of house and wait staff on board through training, so they’ll be engaged in answering customers’ questions about our Meatless Monday menu.” Jason Weiner
“Through marketing and social media, Facebook posts that highlight meatless options.” Josh Bernstein
“Make sure your plant-based menus focus on bold flavor & familiarity.” Nicole Marquis
Q: What specific tips and insights can you share regarding ways to develop menus using protein alternatives and promoting them successfully?
“Our target customer definitely wants something familiar and comforting. With that in mind, we focus on flavor and convenience. Gardein is easy to work with as a protein alternative. Their texture is just right for our fried ‘chicken’ sandwich.” Nicole Marquis
“Shannon Rose Irish Pub is obviously not vegetarian. By using meat substitutes, such as beef crumbles, we can offer sloppy joes and shepherd’s pies.” Josh Bernstein
Q: Do you see this plant-based menu trend as a passing fad or is this here to stay?
All four panelists enthusiastically agreed that the plant-based trend is not a passing fad.
Matt Weingarten’s comment captured the sentiments of the other panel members. “Plant-based menus are here to stay. I believe we’re entering the golden age of vegetables. This is the time to make a connection with our communities and use vegetables to make a positive change on our health and the environment.”
Meatless Monday is a nonprofit public health initiative of The Monday Campaigns. Sid Lerner, the organization’s chairman, founded the Meatless Monday movement in 2003, with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The campaign seeks to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer, and conserve valuable environmental resources by encouraging the public to cut back on meat consumption one day a week. The campaign is founded on research that demonstrates that Monday is the day people are most primed to start and sustain a healthy new behavior. Since its launch 13 years ago, Meatless Monday has become an international movement with support from schools, celebrities, restaurants, and organizations around the world.
Interested in getting Meatless Monday going at your restaurant? See our free creative resources including toolkits, promotional ideas, graphics and posters at www.meatlessmonday.com.