The Definitive Guide to Requesting Vegan Options

Try these tips for scoring new vegan options at your favorite local restaurants.

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When it comes to plant-based fare while dining out, vegans across the country have broken the glass countertop and have guaranteed more vegan ingredients and menu items. Yet, there still comes the evening when you just want to try that cute café on the corner, but they don’t have the food you want. How do you handle restaurants that are not yet vegan-friendly? Tell your stomach to rest easy, because VN is here to help.

It doesn’t hurt to ask
When you’re considering trying a new restaurant, the first thing to do before you even feel hungry is check for menus online, or call ahead and ask what vegan options are available. Just that simple act is your first vote in consumer demand. Don’t ever feel like you have to settle when the answer is “garden salad” or “veggie wrap.” VN Editor-at-Large Laura Hooper Beck didn’t when she and a friend found themselves dissatisfied at Jay’s Cheesesteak in San Francisco. They politely told the counter person that their sandwiches were great, but they would be even better with vegan mayonnaise. Ten minutes later, the employee was back with vegan mayonnaise from the market across the street! They asked, and he acted. How’s that for quality service?

Always be prepared
When a restaurant is unsure of what vegan options include, use this as your golden opportunity to preach the good word. Karin Olsson of the Humane Society of the United States says that the most important thing is to be friendly and polite, and to be available as a resource. Provide specific options that you think could make an establishment more vegan-friendly and more delicious. If the restaurant has burgers and fries, fill them in on your favorite veggie burger and share the benefits of cooking with vegetable oil. Giving tips of the right product can help ease the transition for a restaurant—Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria President Peter Cooperstein says that they tried many vegan cheeses without success, until they found Daiya. The result was an ecstatic vegan community who appreciated the switch from non-vegan soy cheese to a vegan alternative.

The same happened with Cruzers Pizzeria in Los Feliz, CA. Brittany Meredith, who was involved with Cruzers’ transformation, says the pizzeria was not very knowledgeable at first of vegan options. Educating management on different vegan meats and Daiya cheese helped, and not long after, the Los Angeles location of Cruzers became an all-vegan establishment. Meredith says it has seen a 63 percent increase in business.

Making your case
Using the ethics behind veganism could be an effective starting point for your conversation, as was the case with Great Sage restaurant in the DC area. Great Sage had been vegetarian since its opening, aiming to promote compassionate living. Manager Courtney Conklin remembers that customers were supportive of the idea of the restaurant becoming all-vegan. And At the dawn of 2010, Great Sage made the transformation to 100-percent vegan in order to commit even more to its mission of reducing harmful action.

If you sense that appealing to the softer side might not be the best approach, remember in this country, consumers rule. Many fast food and chain restaurants have begun offering vegan options simply because it is a good business strategy. Whether it makes sense to provide more vegan options ethically or economically, the bottom line is it just makes sense.

Following up
One of the most important parts of the transaction is the follow-through. When zPizza began carrying vegan pizza complete with Daiya cheese, they received a warm “thank you” from the vegan community. From many calls and emails, zPizza knew they had made the right decision. “I’ll be honest, more than a few of us have been brought to tears by the stories people have shared with us,” Brandi Babb, director of training for zPizza, said. Voting with your dollar by eating vegan is a great first step. By trying a few of these tips, you can ensure more cruelty-free options for your next night out.

Photo: Garrison McArthur Photographers

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