Mix up your meat-free menus to cash in on flexitarian behaviour change

By Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association

Eating less meat is now a behaviour, not a trend. That’s the firm view of Phil Thornborrow, Foodservice Director at Quorn. And it’s hard to argue with Paul, when you review the findings of a recent survey conducted on Quorn’s behalf to dig deeper into the attitudes of self-confessed flexitarians.

Of the 2,000 flexitarian adults surveyed, very nearly half (49%) of 18-24-year-olds follow a meat-free or meat reducing diet.

So, what do they want to order when eating out, what do they expect from restaurants when it comes to wider sustainability issues and can communicating carbon cutting measures be a good way to attract customers? These were just some of the survey questions, the answers to which feature in The Quorn ChiQin Report, we co-wrote with Quorn.

Key insights from the report include:

  • 52% eat out at least once a week
  • 40.3% eat meat free/plant-based half of the time when eating out of home
  • Quality, value for money and variety of meat free options are the top three influencers 
  • 43.6% said a restaurant having environmentally sustainable practices/values was important when choosing a place to eat out
  • Reducing carbon footprint can drive loyalty and footfall. When it comes to sustainable practices 48.1% said they value a restaurant demonstrating that it’s reducing its carbon footprint.

Phil Thornborrow believes that while the sector has made some shifts towards more balanced menus, many operators would benefit from showing greater creativity when it comes to their meat-free and plant-based offerings.

“With flexitarianism gathering momentum and leading to widespread innovation in the food industry, meat free dishes on some menus can still be limited. This lack of variety is the top thing that puts flexitarians, and importantly the whole group they are with, off eating at a particular restaurant.

“The meat free burger was the first concession for many food operators, bringing in vegetarians and meat eaters alike, but now we need to evolve to continue satisfying this ever-changing audience of diners. This report is intended to act as a toolkit, filled with insights and tips on understanding the meat free market, that will help decision makers adapt their menus and stay ahead of the curve.”

These latest consumer insights provide further weight to the argument for following the lead of operators Wahaca and Wagamama, both of whom boast a menu featuring at least 50% plant-based dishes. And to succeed in encouraging diners to choose these more planet-friendly dishes, the latest in ongoing research by the World Resources Institute on menu language and formatting is a must read.

Operators interested in reading the full ChiQin report should email [email protected] to request a copy for download.

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