Restaurant Outreach: Spreading
Compassion—One Menu at a Time
By Erica Meier
There was a time when waiters rolled their eyes at people
who asked for vegetarian options, but now we purposely cater to those
who are vegetarians for whatever reason. We want every menu to have vegetarian
options on it. Vegetarianism is here to stay.—Rhys
Lewis, Executive Chef at the American Club
It’s hard not to notice that more and more eateries across the
U.S.—from fast food to four-star—are catering to the growing
demand for healthier and more humane vegetarian fare. What was once considered
a hippie trend is now becoming mainstream. According to the National
Restaurant Association, approximately 54 billion meals are eaten in restaurants
and cafeterias each year—and as many as 30 percent of restaurant-goers “want
to eat vegetarian meals.”
By working with restaurants to add a greater number of meat-, egg- and dairy-free
options to their menus, animal advocates can influence nearly everyone.
Feeding the Mind and Body
In 2003, Compassion Over Killing launched its Restaurant Outreach Campaign in
the nation’s capital to promote compassionate eating habits by helping
make vegetarian dining as easy as possible. We’ve worked hand-in-hand with
more than a dozen establishments in creating or expanding veg menus as well as
assisting with the promotion of these new animal-friendly options. This positive
approach has been met with tremendous success, and similar efforts are sprouting
up throughout the country.
One of the best aspects of restaurant outreach campaigns is that a single person
can make an immediate and lasting difference for animals. Want to start a restaurant
outreach campaign in your city or town? Here’s a quick how-to guide to
get you started:
Approaching a Restaurant
When choosing a restaurant, consider which establishments may be more open to
changes in their menus. Family-owned or independent restaurants are more apt
to sincerely consider customers’ suggestions. Start with a local eatery
you’re familiar with and that you and your friends or family would likely
visit more often if there were more animal-free choices.
Set Up a Meeting
Face-to-face meetings play a vital role in conveying your message. Ask the owner
if you may set up a time to briefly discuss the establishment offering more vegetarian
options. Be sure to let the owner know you’ll be bringing along some free
food samples to taste. If you’re representing a nonprofit organization,
be sure to mention that or simply say you’re speaking on behalf of members
of the community. Make sure they know you’re not selling anything and you
charge nothing for the consultation.
What to Bring
Not all restaurant owners are familiar with vegetarian eating, so be sure to
have materials to help them understand why increasing numbers of people are opting
for animal-free foods, and offer
them simple ways they can cater to this growing demand.
Take literature such as COK’s Vegetarian Starter Guide and Vegan Outreach’s Try
Vegetarian to help them with their decision to include more compassionate
Take along copies of recent news articles demonstrating the growing interest
in vegetarian foods.
Provide them with free recipes to show them how easy it is to make their menu
Bring food samples. After familiarizing yourself with the restaurant’s
menu, stop by your local grocery store to pick up some meat-, egg- and dairy-free
products that will enable the chef or
owner to create cruelty-free versions of some of its most popular dishes.
What to Say
Restaurant owners and chefs typically have busy schedules, so be sure you are
prepared with literature, food samples and your presentation. During the meeting,
it’s essential that you impress upon the owner the advantages of catering
to the growing popularity and appeal of vegetarian eating. Here are some quick
After briefly offering background information on vegetarian eating, appeal to
the owner’s taste buds by following
up with the food samples, attractively laid out, to bring home the appeal of
adding more animal-friendly fare.
Answer questions truthfully. If you aren’t sure of a response, simply tell
the owner you will find the answer
and get back to them ASAP.
Explain the appeal of vegetarian items. Let the owner know that by adding completely
animal-free items to the menu, the restaurant will increase its marketability
by appealing to vegetarians as well
as those with allergies or health concerns. Adding new meat-, egg- and dairy-free
items is also a great way to diversify the menu for current patrons.
Offer more help. Even if the restaurant owner is enthusiastic about adding more
veg items, the next step in actually doing so may take time. Offering your help
in any capacity—from developing
menu ideas to taste testing to promoting its new vegetarian options—shows
your commitment and sincere interest in seeing this through to success.
Be appreciative. At the meeting’s end, thank the owner again for taking
the time in a busy day to meet with you, and ask when a good time to follow-up
Don’t expect the new menu items to market themselves. When a restaurant
adds a new vegetarian menu or items, make sure to promote it to all your friends,
family, members of your organization
and so on. It’s imperative that restaurants be rewarded for good behavior!
You Can Do It!
Once you’ve had success with one restaurant owner, ask for recommendations
of other establishments that might be interested in creating or expanding their
vegetarian options. It’s not uncommon for restaurant owners to associate
with others in the business, and their connections and suggestions can be valuable
to your outreach efforts.
Remember, all it takes is one person to make a major difference in changing everyday
restaurants into vegetarian-friendly palaces. Start today!
Erica Meier is the executive director of Compassion Over Killing (www.cok.net).
© STEALTH TECHNOLOGIES INC.