In the UK there are currently around 600,000 vegans or 1.16% of the population, according to the Vegan Society. With the lifestyle choice rapidly gaining pace, these numbers are only set to increase in the coming years. Restaurants looking to stay ahead of the game will need to look into developing a vegan menu in order to stay relevant. Plus, the benefits would see a restaurant appeal to a new crowd of diners!

Being vegan around Christmas time can be tough, so this is the perfect moment for restaurants to unveil a meat-free Christmas menu! Take a look at our guide below for advice on how to do this.

Vegan Christmas dining

Christmas is certainly a great time for restaurants, as bookings increase to cater for people meeting up with family and friends over the winter celebrations. As well as run-up bookings, it appears more people are making reservations at restaurants for Christmas Day than ever before, and results from Google Trends validate this. Between 2011 and 2015 alone, there was a 251% increase in people celebrating the holiday outside of their home and 35% of Brits would consider doing the same.

Take time to survey your customers and people in the area likely to visit — would a vegan menu entice more people to try out your restaurant?

Doing your homework

Taking an in-depth into determining your customers’ (and potential customers’) wants is key if you’re wanting to be successful. To carry out extensive customer research, there’s a mixture of methods that you can follow to gain reliable data that can inform your restaurant decisions and even your future budgets.

Have you tried using social media for this sort of research? If you already have an established following, create a free survey on software like SurveyMonkey that asks questions around veganism and whether your audience would like to see more options on your menu. Promote this to your own audience and then push it out in local groups to generate a more valuable response.

You can also ask your current customers face-to-face what they think; after all, this will help build a rapport and make your customers feel their feedback is valued too. Remember, they may have friends and family members who follow this type of diet.

An alternative vegan menu

It’s a little more intensive to build a vegan menu than a vegetarian one. Initially, most restaurants believe that they are limited with what they can serve to a vegan, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Almost anything you would serve to a non-vegan, you can put a veganism twist on it and create a standalone dish.

Look into serving a vegan nut roast. This can serve between six and eight people and takes around two hours to make. If you have enough vegan customers, this could be the perfect dish to make and then serve separately. Simply combine root vegetables with mushrooms, grains, hazelnuts and fresh herbs and then add additional parsnip crisps to add a crunchiness to the dish.

You will likely already have ingredients in your cupboards to make vegan Christmas dishes. So, this will not impact your current relationship with suppliers. Using vegan chocolate, you can create an incredible fudgy chocolate cake — something that every vegan will surely order when they’re at your restaurant. To be more convenient with ingredients and time spent preparing other desserts in the kitchen, you could keep this as your only chocolate cake dish as it will taste just as good as non-vegan options. Using avocado, soya milk and muscovado sugar, no one will know the difference. This indulging cake will only take an hour to prepare and cook but will serve up to 16 people.

A good idea to test your vegan menu would be to host a taster session with vegan food critics and bloggers. They could then post about your new menu and generate more publicity for your restaurant.