You know the times “they are a-changin’” when you can eat vegan in a desert. I spent the last week in Las Vegas for co-op, and aside from shooting a music video at all odd hours of day and night in casinos and desert caves, I can attest that Vegas has some of the best vegan options I’ve had to date. From teriyaki mushroom and faux chicken burgers to avocado and Daiya cheese tortilla strips drenched in vegan chipotle mayo, you can assume and be assured that I ate really well.
Part of me believes that the growth of vegans, vegetarians and semi-vegetarians has required restaurants to get savvy and provide a more varied menu, but the other part of me wants to believe or hopes that with the increasing trend of veg-friendly and vegan restaurants, that there is a quasi correlation that implies a causation between veg options and the growing concern for animal welfare. Since most plant-based options are cheaper than animal products, the profit margins for restaurants are sure to rise at least incrementally over time. Yet, the major goal I have is to continually encourage the ethical choice for plant based meals in addition to its health benefits.
In a place like Vegas, the quintessential and very American model for risk and managing disastrous currency loss (blowing on the dice, sadly, did nothing for the housing bubble), I was pleasantly surprised to find investments in larger menus that cater to a niche crowd of animal-friendly people — it doesn’t seem very profitable for a city that sucks the money out of tourists at airports and gas stations. However, as the exponential curve conveys more and more people eating plant based meals for their health and the animals, I wouldn’t be surprised to find fantastic veg options in Omaha, Neb. — let’s get that faux New York strip steak sizzling!
In a way, I discovered many parallels between gambling and including vegan or vegetarian meals on the menu. Your odds of making a significant profit off of one veg menu item are not really in your favor, but if your menu includes several vegetarian options with ways to customize them, then your business will at least increase incrementally over time since more people, at least vegetarians and vegans, will have yet another restaurant to choose from and eat at often. And in the days of Yelp and Google Map reviews, having some veg options to brag about only helps customers find you more easily. A restaurant can have a small dedicated group of veg-locals after a while, and with that, a shop can further adjust the menu and become not just your mom and pop’s diner (although my mom and pop’s diner was apparently really good circa 1980).
Of course, by having more options that include more than just veggie burgers and fries you can compete with other restaurants that don’t have those options. Eventually, restaurant owners will notice and suddenly Joe’s Pizza will have a veggie hoagie, or Pete’s Place will have a teriyaki mushroom and faux chicken burger. Over time, your community will have more vegetarian options all around, which not only your palette appreciates, but the animals appreciate too.
I don’t want to sound like an ad agency — Don Draper isn’t really my style — but the odds of including veg options on more menus, as Las Vegas seems to have gambled on and won, are in your favor. So, throw the dice, double down, play 10 on nine lines, and take the risk on more plant based options for vegans and vegetarians.
Benjamin Sylvester is the president of the Drexel Animal Welfare Group. He can be contacted at [email protected]
“Moo Over This” publishes biweekly.