Slow Mondays needn’t be a drag on a restaurant. With Meatless Monday on the menu, attracting new customers, expanding their taste buds, and inspiring healthier returnees just got easier. The effort also synchs neatly with the growing passion for preserving the environment by eating locally and reducing meat consumption. There is no clientele too haute or too hip for Meatless Monday. In a recent Meatless Monday survey, more than 66 percent of respondents said that not only would they get a table at a restaurant that participates in Meatless Monday, they would also bring their friends.
The challenge for restaurateurs, however, is finding the best match between customer expectations and the huge array of possible offerings.
For restaurants such as HipCityVeg in Philadelphia, Meatless Monday is a seamless linkup.
“HipCityVeg already caters to a young audience who wants to eat well and do something good for the environment,” said Nicole Marquis, president and CEO, Marquis & Co, LLC , We just emphasize our connection to healthy, plant-based food.”
In contrast, Jason Weiner, executive chef and owner of Almond, a classic Parisian bistro in New York City and the Hamptons, uses his Meatless Monday menus to actually leverage his customers’ interest in vegetables.
“Meatless Monday allows vegetables to be our main story,” he explained. The fact that Almond has been seasonal, local, and artisanal since 2001 helps make the transition to Meatless Monday an easy one.”
But for clientele who are not often on speaking terms with vegetables, there’s still hope. The Shannon Rose Irish Pub in Clifton and Ramsey, NJ, discovered its own special maneuver for Meatless Monday: using meat substitutes, such as beef crumbles, in sloppy joe’s and shepherd’s pie. The result, while unexpected for a pub-crawl crowd, was not unwelcome.
“By highlighting our vegetarian offerings,” said executive chef Josh Bernstein, “we’ve been able to expand our customer base.”
Meatless Monday doesn’t mean restaurants have to throw meat entirely off the menu. Let meat-committed customers enjoy their favorite hamburgers and T-bone steaks guilt-free. But for those who want to go meatless on Monday, think about creating a new special to highlight seasonal produce. Or, just put a star next to vegetable standards such as salads or pasta to draw attention to the meatless dishes.
Those who have the time, passion, and resources, can create specific Meatless Monday Specials. Consider aligning with local growers and let your social networks do the talking. To help, Meatless Monday offers free creative resources, including toolkits, promotional ideas, graphics, and posters at MeatlessMonday.com.
“Plant-based menus are here to stay,” added Matt Weingarten, culinary director of Dig Inn Seasonal Market in New York City. “I believe we are entering the golden age of vegetables. This is the time to make a connection with our communities and use vegetables to make a positive change on our health and the environment.”
The nonprofit initiative of the The Monday Campaigns was founded by former ad executive Sid Lerner in association with Johns Hopkins University. In 2003, when Lerner’s doctor advised him to eat 15 percent less fat once a week, he figured 15 percent meant no meat one day a week. He chose Monday because psychologists say that’s the best day to start something new. Thousands of diners – from carnivores to flexitarians, vegetarians, vegans, and dieters, as well as the eco-conscious – have joined the Meatless Monday movement, along with restaurant operators and chefs from around the world, including the renowned Mario Batali.
Meatless Monday can be a successful campaign for chefs and restaurateurs because it doesn’t tell anyone to become a vegetarian or give up favorite foods, says Lerner. “Just taking one day a week to enjoy a veggie pizza or a plant-based entrée can help your customers’ health and the health of our planet.”