Vegan Menu Ideas for Your Restaurant

From the beginning, vegan food has grown. USD $3.9Billion in 2017 to USD $7 BillionThe trend is expected to continue into 2020. As the popularity of veganism and plant based eating continues to rise, restaurateurs can’t sit idly by.

From a profitability perspective, introducing vegan menu items makes sense; if your restaurant can rise to meet the growing demand for plant based alternatives, you’ll cater to a wider market. That means you’ll have a bigger market share and better bottom line.  

If you’re looking vegan menu ideas to cater to this ever-growing population but don’t know where to start, we have you covered.

In this article we’ll go over:


Are you looking for help with the food costs?

Small Biz Sense’s food cost calculator breaks down your menu by dish and factors in each ingredient to find the desired margin for your restaurant.


Statistics and trends in vegan cuisine

Below are statistics from the ASPCA on rising vegan demand. Plant Based Foods AssociationAs of 2021.

  • The highest number of sales for plant-based foods items was achieved in 2020, which saw a 6% increase in annual sales and a 54% rise over three years.
  • The sales of vegan foods outpaced those for total food +3.8%/unit and +6.2%/dollar amount.
  • Milk alternatives, meat substitutes and coffee creamers are the most well-known plant-based products ($2.6 billion), ($1.4 billion) and ($516M).
  • About 62% of US households have purchased plant-based foodstuffs, with 79% repeat customers.
  • Cheese, butter, and ice cream were among the plant-based products that saw an increase in sales.


Vegan menu ideas for your restaurant

One could choose to go vegan for many reasons. 

As food labels grow (dairy free, gluten-free pescatarian vegetarian and vegan), Flexitarian and, of course, vegan amongst others) it’s no wonder some restaurateurs look at their menus and question whether it’s possible to keep everyone satisfied.

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel, replace it

You can replace animal products creatively with plant-based options. Burgers are a great example. This is the reason burgers are so popular. Beyond Meat®A meaty substitute such as a lentil or bean patt can be used to replace the meat in your meals.

The bottom line benefit is that veggie burgers are often cheaper to source and produce than high-quality meat alternatives of the same size.

If you’re looking to adapt a dish like a noodle, soup or rice bowl, your options expand to include things like tofu, tempeh or protein-packed legumes. It’s an art form, and cooking becomes easier when you see it as an opportunity to express your creativity.

Replace this… …with this
Ice cream Coconut- or soy-based sherbets, or other coconut-based options
Yogurt Alternatives made from soy, rice and coconut
Cow’s milk You can get milk from nuts like almonds, cashews and soya, as well as rice, coconut, oats, and soy.
Cheese Soy, nut or nutritional yeast alternatives
Honey Coconut nectar, maple syrup and agave nectar
Eggs (in baking) Ground flaxseeds, bananas and applesauce
Meat Tofu, seitan, tempeh, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), quinoa, beans, lentils, jackfruit or meat replacement alternatives

2. Get connected to the community

Is it difficult to decide which menu item made from plants will appeal to your customers (current and future)? Talk to them. You can also reach out to local nutritionists, dieticians, or vegan associations to get their feedback.

Another source—one close to your current customers—is your staff. Your staff can help make your expansion process more efficient by inviting them to suggest menu items or try top options. This will also increase your employee engagement.  

3. For certification, check

The FDA doesn’t currently regulate whether vegan brunch items are actually vegan. Restaurateurs are responsible for setting their own standards, and sourcing the ingredients according to them.

The American Vegetarian Association’s certification programIt is possible to be sure that your product and its manufacturing process do not contain animal by-products. It’s possible your costs may increase slightly, but as more and more diners are becoming conscious and critical of the foods they eat, backing up your vegan restaurant menu with proper certification is a show of respect and a surefire way to earn and keep your customers’ trust.   


Refining your vegan menu items

So, you’ve consulted, created and certified. Your vegan options are now looking great and taste amazing. Next, what’s next?  

Your staff should give feedback

Even when there’s meat on the plate, introducing a new menu item is an involved process. But when you’re serving up vegan dishes, the to-do list gets even longer. There are also precautionary measures that must be taken when the food is being prepared and served to customers.

Close up of two hands holding a bowl  with mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, and kimchi.

Ask your customers for feedback

First and foremost, keep in mind that vegan food isn’t exclusive, it’s inclusive. You don’t have to identify as a vegan to enjoy tofu pad thai or veggie pakoras.

It is important to consider language when deciding on a course of action. Marketing plant-based food products. Finding out whether your audience is more receptive to “plant based” than “vegan” or “meat-free” will help you roll out a campaign to encourage new customers through your doors. 

You can also get feedback in other ways

Once you’re ready to go public, also consider:

  • Throwing a party to announce the release of your menu.
  • Promote your plant-based recipes on Instagram
  • Updating your digital touchpoints (places like Google My Business, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.) You can now offer vegan and vegetarian food.

To refine your menu options for vegans, use menu insight

Use of a Restaurant POS system with advanced insightYou can then see which items of the menu are doing well, what ones could use a little more promotion, and which ones may need to be removed from or redesigned.

Are you ready to start with our one-stop platform for restaurant management that will help with inventory control, menu management and other tasks? Get in touch with one of our specialists about How Small Biz Sense Can Help.



Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.