When vegetarians mean lost business for restaurants


Everyone complains about vegetarians. Hey.. they only eat salads, hate the smell of meat etc etc right? Wrong. I hope to demonstrate that any pros working in social and business events pays very close attention to the niche. Those that offer a variety of carnivorous and vegetarian friendly foods plus with a little SEO can make some serious money and repeat business.

Well, I’m a vegetarian, 20 years and going on some, and I’m perfectly fine and healthy. Let’s not talk about me. The mainly carnivorous Spanish restaurants, where I live and work, are loosing out on business from very wealthy multinational companies. Why, as there’s a great deal of Northern Europeans, Middle Eastern and Americans who have health allergies and food preferences. Hey, I’m a veggie because of taste. This makes any type of business, events, and networking event a deal maker or a deal breaker. Let me explain….

It boils down to the feeling of exclusion. This results in discontented people / candidates not returning, going or leaving early from events. I frequently do this, as simply I think, you don’t think about me then, you don’t care or want my business!

Think every food type, for every event

I work as a marketing director. Having organised a plethora of offline events, one has to make sure everyone is catered for. Anyone who’s worked in events will know. Did you forget that Jake was Jewish and doesn’t eat the pork starters? Or how about Janine who’s Muslim and doesn’t eat that beef that’s not halal.

Now, you don’t have to be a genius to work out that some of the most envied, rich countries in the world like Saudi Arabia or at a media event, with the main shakers from Warner, could be invited to an intense networking evening when you don’t offer finger or sit down food that caters for them. Why? As you’ve not thought about them.

Meal taker, Deal Breaker

Everything is perfect at the event. But a close conversion don’t drink and the food.. well that neither. Ice breaker, a few stale jokes then perhaps. Deal breaker – definitely.

What’s this? They’ve spotted a restaurant down the road or are busily flicking through google maps or foursquare as they’re getting HUNGRY! Events organisers make the whole thing work. They put hours into the event. However, time and time again, even from the larger events group organisers, I see the same mistakes. You don’t think about me, you bought me here, you insulted me. I’m 20 seconds on foursquare and that deal your CEO was hoping to get. Well, they’ve left the building.

I was at one event in Germany a few years ago. The same thing happened. It was ironic that one of the sponsors was after a guy who was vegetarian. We left as I was getting hungry before he made his way to us. We kinda were disappointed, and hungry and felt let down.

I ended up with a great media contact, and we still joke about the event and the fun we had finding the other place and sharing some great wine.

Now, what happens if the deal you’re hoping to sign falls down because of that? What if I was the major competitor of your company and wanted to seal a deal and took the opportunity [being of a food type preference or not], to change my perspective and to make the other person equal? I’m talking business, I’m eating vege food.. so what? Business IS BUSINESS right? Wake up, as is social media finding and connecting to people like us, how come we’ve not worked this out in the real world?

Now I’ve kind of put it into perspective, being vegetarian is like any other respected choice. It makes or breaks deals. It makes the event for your guest, a non event.

Simply put, if you don’t offer plates that can cater for vegetarian friendly people, that’s one other nail in the coffin. The short sighted restaurants, with unimaginative chefs or managers can and will loose valuable business.

The Spanish Restaurant Market Failure To Address Food Preferences

I’ve been to very luxury restaurants and hotels and the only thing they could serve up, 9 times in 10 is risotto. My personal unimaginative dish is fried or grilled vegetables on toast. I can personally make hummus in about 10 minutes, another 10 in the fridge using ice and it can seem like it’s been there for some time.

My question is how about offering some other Spanish tapas, other than pork, pork, pork.. and ermm.. pork. How about some Moroccan / Arabic influence which is a little spicy? Potatoes and Onions fried is nice. How about tomato soup with pimenton / paprika.

Did I ever attend one class in cookery ever? No. So how come educated chefs can’t think out of the box. Oh, and by the way, my girlfriend can make 2 vegetarian courses in 30 minutes, so there’s no excuses.

When vegetarians mean lost business for restaurants. It’s not about the meal deal price, it’s how easy other options are found

Anyway, now the ball is on the other foot. Event organisers, like marketing pros know that it’s the small things, especially their pet hates, or morals/ethics that determine how loud people can be. You upset a few of the crowd, then poison has been added to the wine. So, what does the smart professional do? Look for somewhere that offers selection for everyone. This is based on the worth and the ROI for the event. For social events, it means the ante needs to be set higher.

This means all those great hotels offering deals will be overlooked on Google for others that make it easier for busy secretaries and events pros to find. Result, lost business, even calculating in the price of the event.

I always ask now as luckily I’m involved with decision making processes for the company.

I make sure that I know people’s food preferences, background, allergies etc.

I then find places that cater for this. Seasoned events specialists do the same.

So, if you wish to attract the oil money, a lot of amercian jewish players [there’s lots in the Fortune 500], anyone with food allergies and vegetarians plus vegans, you’re actually talking about a HUGE loss in profit.

Solutions for Restauranteers

Simply offer 2 dishes for those on a kosher diet. Halal is harder, however I do understand that the meat is actually tastier.

Food choices for vegans, vegetarians and gluten allergic, these are very, very simple to offer. You place this on a menu, do a bit of basic SEO, put it on 4 square and you can enjoy another rather profitable and loyal market coming your way.

Those that do not follow this simple advice you may be very successful with your restaurant however choice of venue is often down to the weakest link? When vegetarians and other food preferences mean lost business for restaurants, you’re a fool to think that within Spain, in a downturn in the economy that attracting new, repeat and loyal business isn’t a sensible idea.