Monday, June 16, 2014

Suggestions on being a vegan-friendly restaurant

I thought a bit about the title of this post. I kept going back to wanting to take the word vegan out of it. Most of my suggestions would make any restaurant more guest-friendly. As I am vegan and hope to have more friendly dining experiences at non-vegan restaurants, I finally decided to keep the title as it is.

We have our favorite restaurants and still find ourselves going to new places (new for us) as we find out about a place through friends or online.

If you own a restaurant, manage a restaurant, or have any interest in making a particular restaurant more friendly to potential diners, you might find this list helpful. These are obviously only my opinions, and they are based on how I want to feel when dining out.

If you don't care about vegan cuisine or about having a great place for vegan customers, or if your restaurant is already filled every day and night and you are already as profitable as you want to be, then there is no need to read this.

Here we go!

First, and this one is so important, please, please, please have your entire staff trained on the menu. If someone serving me food doesn't know what is in the food, I become concerned. If it is impossible for your entire staff to know if a dish is vegan or not, then I suggest an ingredients book that they can look at to see if a particular dish is vegan. This is also very helpful with allergies and folks who eat gluten-free. My dining experience becomes so much better when I can trust the server, and a server trained around all of the menu items is one I can trust.

Cream is not vegan. Nor is half-n-half. Training all staff on what is vegan is incredibly helpful. Even better is marking any items that are vegan or that can be prepared vegan. So helpful.

Keep your bathrooms clean. Seriously.

If at all possible, post your menu online. If you have an incredibly popular vegan dish on the menu, let people know that.

Back to training. I am quite comfortable being vegan. I don't talk about it all of the time. I mention it in a restaurant because I want to ensure I can get my dish prepared vegan. I'm not interested in if the server had been vegan, if the server loves cheese, or if the server can't imagine being vegan. This is my dining experience, not theirs.

Unfortunately many vegans have had so much bad luck with ordering vegan, being very clear, and then getting a dish with dairy or some meat stock in it. The result is that they tell the serve they are allergic to dairy, or meat, or whatever. I'd love a restaurant that because of a well-trained staff this was not necessary.

I am vegan. This simply means that I do not eat animal flesh or any by-product of an animal. Including honey. I do not have a restrictive diet. If asked by a server if I have any food restrictions I will typically say that I do not want any crappy food, that I prefer fresh, creative dishes. That's my only restriction. Of course for those folks who have a real allergy (Mike is allergic to almonds) then this is where one would inform the server of the allergy.

Kindness rules. Unkind people should not be hosts or servers. Period.

There you have it. I guarantee that if your restaurant considers what I have just written here, you will not only increase your customer base but you will inevitably delight those same people.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Love this, well said, particularly about the restricted part. Here is my open letter along the same line:

  2. Great piece. I get so tired of going to a new restaurant and having to settle for sides.
    There is a small diner in the village and the owner is quite open to making whatever you might request- his lesbian sister is vegan and once had an incredible vegan restaurant up
    in Rochester (NY)- but at the same time I really don't want to be going thru the hassle of explaining my vegan diet and coming up with something exciting and unusual to eat, I do that at home most nights.
    Had a waitress a little while back who said she was vegan for 6 years but now eats grass fed animals. I engaged her in conversation because it is always interesting to try and understand how a person comes to light then decides to return to dark. She said she felt something was missing from her diet and couldn't get all the nutrients she needed from a veg diet. Told her I am 59 and became a vegan at 14, am an avid mountain biker, kayaker, hiker and have never felt my diet was insufficient.

  3. I've been to a few restaurants that have little pictures by their menu items signifying vegan, vegetarian and other diet styles(?). I wish more restaurants did that! It makes it so easy.