How restaurants are wooing ‘flexitarians’


Sylvain Charlebois, The Conversation

January 10, 2019


Restaurants are struggling to respond to consumers who are rapidly shifting away from animal protein.


According to a recent study by Dalhousie University, nearly one in five Canadians have decided to either reduce the amount of meat they consume or have outright eliminated it from their diets.


Add the fact that 63 per cent of the estimated 6.4 million Canadians who purposely restrict the amount of animal protein they consume are aged 38 or under, it’s clear that the economic influence of the anti-meat movement can only increase. That’s a scary thought for steakhouses out there.


But the food service industry is showing it can adapt and be successful in an environment where demand for animal protein is becoming more fragmented.


In fast food, A&W’s “Beyond Meat Burger” is a good example. The item sold out a month after its release at some locations and was reportedly selling better at many outlets than the chain’s iconic Teen Burger.


Its success is due to the principle of normalizing the offer. The “Beyond Meat Burger” was just part of the regular menu, and tasted almost the same as other top sellers at the restaurant.


No all-beef patties, but special sauce!


Even McDonald’s is adjusting. Anyone can now order a meatless Big Mac. In some outlets I’ve visited, they even had a picture of the product: It’s a bun, lettuce, tomato, sauce and that’s it. No patty.


That’s stunning when you think of how McDonald’s had positioned itself for decades as the premiere ambassador of the Canadian beef industry.


In fine dining, more restaurants are adding vegetarian and vegan options to their menus. Some cities like Toronto now have neighbourhoods with clusters of vegan restaurants and shops. Fairs, festivals — hardly a week goes by without hearing about some event where a meatless world is showcased. Little more than 20 years ago, veganism was almost frowned upon. Today, it is often celebrated.


And given that 20 per cent of Canadians are reducing the amount of meat in their diets, odds are that at least one person in every social group or family is a vegan or vegetarian.


Menus are much more inclusive now, since most dietary preferences tend to coexist.


‘Flexitarians’ on the rise ...


Vegans want full-on vegan restaurants ...


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