How to serve an enticing vegan fast-food menu

31 March 2022
How to serve an enticing vegan fast-food menu

The rise in vegan food is undeniable, so make sure you have some appetising plant-based meat substitutes on offer, says Dawn Carr.

Plant-based protein is the fastest-growing food sector, as more and more people are choosing vegan foods to help mitigate the climate crisis, improve their health, or to be more animal-friendly.

Vegan chicken especially has really hit the mainstream – there's KFC's hugely successful original recipe vegan burger, Burger King's celebrated vegan royale and vegan nuggets at Domino's. Smaller chains like Sam's Chicken and Slim Chickens have introduced popular vegan chicken burgers and tenders to their menus, and Absurd Bird has a fully vegan dark kitchen brand – Absurd Vird – operating at 20 locations. But the majority of the hundreds of independent chicken takeaways in the UK still offer little to appeal to this growing market. Some businesses have added plant-based options and then watched them fail. This may be through lack of promotion – if people don't know about it, they can't choose it – or because they offered something boring. No one goes to a chicken takeaway for a sad, mashed vegetable burger or a side salad.

In addition to being more environmentally and animal-friendly, vegan chicken can help make businesses more inclusive and increase sales by attracting a new, loyal customer base. Meat-free options can help businesses avoid losing parties with one or more vegans to other establishments. Crunchy vegan nuggets, ‘meaty' vegan burgers, and even spicy vegan ‘wings' will attract both the after-school crowd and families looking for a Friday takeaway.

And it's never been easier – innovation in this sector is off the charts. Food producers have really upped their game in creating protein-packed products that offer the taste of chicken using the power of plants. Products from brands like the Vegetarian Butcher and This Isn't Chicken as well as Quorn's new vegan fried chicken range for foodservice will satisfy even the most dedicated meat-eater, an increasing number of whom are looking to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets.

Where possible, it's best to cook vegan foods separately from meat, and many products can be oven-cooked to avoid cross-contact. Some businesses use a dedicated deep-fryer for vegan options. But fear of cross-contact need not be a barrier to offering winning vegan options.

Burger King's plant-based Whopper is cooked on the same grill as meat, and while it's possible that a trace amount of meat will transfer to the burger, it would be negligible. PETA is happy to recommend the Whopper, as it contains no animal-derived ingredients and has a lower carbon footprint than a meat burger. Of course, it's not just about the meat. It's easy to sauce things up with some vegan mayonnaise, which is shelf-stable for longer than egg mayonnaise, and many people prefer the taste. Some businesses have switched to using it exclusively, which helps keep things simple in the kitchen. Use it for making coleslaw and you have an easy side dish that just happens to be vegan, too.

Entrepreneur Alan Sugar has said that for companies today, diversifying to add vegan options is "how you remain in business". And as the chief executive of the world's largest chicken producer, Tyson, said of its investment in vegan chicken: "If you can't beat them, join them."

Dawn Carr is director of vegan corporate projects at PETA

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