Why should I make my business more vegan friendly?

Use your business to help the environment.

Famous chefs and restaurant chains across the world are increasingly waking up to the adverse environmental impact of meat, dairy and fish - and including more plant-based options on their menus. These include Jamie Oliver, Alain Ducasse, Bruno Loubet, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Yotam Ottolenghi. Many meat eaters also opt for veggie options now and then to do their little bit for the environment.

Vegans are cooler than you think.

Whilst many restaurant owners may imagine a vegan customer as a worst nightmare, swaggering into their cafe like an unwashed hippy smelling of old mushrooms and hemp, complaining loudly that there is nothing on the menu for them and giving evil looks to any meat guzzlers in their general vicinity, the reality couldn't be further from the truth. You will never meet a more enthusiastic and passionate bunch of food lovers as 'the vegans' and once word gets out that you have a tasty vegan dish on your menu, they will all be flocking to your restaurant and bringing their meat eating buddies with them too. Don't forget how much free publicity it will bring you as your new vegan customers will not waste a moment to pass on the info excitedly to their friends about their new find, talking about you on social media, blogs and of course in the Vegan Norway app.

Optimise your profits BY CATERING TO EVERYONE.

Market research shows that mixed parties of diners are more likely to eat where their vegan members are well-catered for, so that everyone in their group is happy. Catering for vegans means you automatically cater for vegetarians too, whereas offering only cheese/egg-based vegetarian options can exclude vegans and the lactose intolerant. Many Jewish people opt for a veggie/vegan option as it is always kosher; and there are lots of other groups that refrain from animal products for religious or cultural reasons like Hindus and Buddhists.

'This isn't the type of place a vegan would like.'

Vegans don't just hang around in health food stores all the time you know? We like all the same stuff as everyone else and we particularly love it when we can find great vegan products that fit outside of the stereotype. All over the world you can find different types of businesses that cater to vegans, from cosmetics to clothing and fast food trucks to five star restaurants.


How does a vegan friendly business work in practise?

Veg is the answer - The IKEA story

In summer 2015 IKEA got in touch with us about making their menu more inclusive. They knew that it would be a great business move to put something on their menu that would cater to everyone so their chefs set to work making a veg based alternative to their ever popular meatballs. We worked with them to promote their new vegan menu choice across Norway. I asked Evy Johansen from IKEA Norge how it's been working out since they added their tasty veggieballs to the menu.

What made you decide to make the IKEA menu friendly to vegans?

'There is a huge interest in food and people want to trust the food they eat. Almost everyone is interested in food, and it unites friends and family. People explore food in a different way than before. Also many people want to eat healthy, and to know the content of the food when it comes to calories and ingredients. People want to be sure that their food has been sustainably produced, promotes good animal welfare and not wasted throughout the value chain. This led IKEA to want to change their food direction, and to improve our contribution to a better everyday life through a wider offer of delicious, healthy food that is sustainably produced – at affordable prices.
Launching veggie balls (GRÖNSAKSBULLAR) is a natural step in our change journey, and a decision based on our customers wish for more options. GRÖNSAKSBULLAR fulfil the needs of a hot meal based on high protein content, they do not have any animal content, are free from allergens and do not contain GMO.'

Is it expensive to cater to vegans? 

'We want our menu to cater to the most people. GRÖNSAKSBULLAR is a great product for everyone, whether you are vegan, vegetarian, just fancy some veggies, want less calories in your meal or have dietary restrictions. Having a product that is good for everyone means that we can sell it in bigger volumes, which contributes to keeping the cost down.'

Are there any other benefits from making your menu greener?

'GRÖNSAKSBULLAR has a lower carbon and water footprint, which makes it a better choice from a sustainability point of view. Making the menu greener also has clear health benefits. Obesity is a global problem, and we want to enable our guests to make informed meal choices in relation to health through being transparent about the food content. Our ambition is to offer a wider variety of healthy food choices that are delicious, sustainable and affordable for the most people, based on the IKEA Swedish identity. Although GRÖNSAKSBULLAR contains fewer calories than KÖTTBULLAR, the protein content is high and fulfils the needs of a main meal.'

Usually, if you have a vegan in your party, that will dictate where the party eats.
— Nation’s Restaurant News (US catering Magazine)

Stand out from the crowd - Funky Fresh Foods

When swedish vegans Jenni and Josephine moved to Norway in 2006 they were shocked at how little Oslo had to offer. They set to work getting involved in the vegan scene and trying to get already established businesses to introduce more vegan food to their menus. They decided to start Funky Fresh Foods in 2009 and began introducing raw organic vegan food to health stores, cafes and festivals all over Norway. Then they decided to open their own place! Before they did that, they knew they had a lot of work to do. They were about to offer something to the market that customers not realised the value of ...yet. Now they are a huge success and in our opinion the best restaurant in Norway for vegan food. I asked Josephine if she had any advice for veg-curious business owners.

What made you decide to open a fully vegan restaurant?

'A fully vegan restaurant has been a dream for me and Jenni for a long time. It is good that regular restaurants have more vegan and vegetarian options, but we wanted to really make a point that you don't need meat or diary to have a nice restaurant experience. And 2014 was the year we felt that Oslo was ready for it!'

Do you think that having a fully vegan menu is risky business?

'Well we don't have the perfect "drop-by" location. I think that the choice of being vegan is a important for our differentiation, and it would have been more risky to try to do what everybody else is doing.'

Are there any other benefits from making your menu greener?

'For our chefs, vegan cooking is more creative. You can develop new tastes, textures and combinations without being set in a standard way of building a meal: "meat, sauce, potatoes". In many ways it creates a better working environment, our kitchen is easier to clean down when its no animal fats. Both oven, fans and drains clean easier.'

Is it expensive to cater to vegans? 

'Many people think that vegan food is cheaper, because meat is expensive. Actually meat and diary products is not that expensive, but fresh vegetables are! Vegan cooking for bigger groups often takes more time and space, then meat options. For us that makes everything from scratch, gluten free, vegan and organic our cost will be higher then for a meat caterer. On the other hand, vegans often are "foodies" on conscious consumers that know when to pay for quality.'

Do you have any advice for businesses looking to make more ethical choices?

'I would really recommend to focus on developing more vegan dishes. There are many vegetarian options in Oslo now, but to replace the meat with cheese is not more environmental or animal friendly. And don't just put a vegan dish on the menu "just to have the option", if you gonna have a vegan burger make it the best burger ever. Vegan costumers are a big group with a well developed network. If you do good, people will hear about it!'


Need more advice?

If you are considering making your business a little greener, just get in touch. We are happy to advise and chat with you about your business and would love to help you promote your vegan endeavours.

*based on a survey done in 2011 by NOAH - for dyrs rettigheter.