A recent survey by comparethemarket.com found that 3.5m Brits now class themselves as Vegan, up from 600,000 in 2016, so when we were planning our new Smart Space menus, it was important to ensure we catered to this growing sector.
By offering vegan options as part of our menu, it improves our customer experience, ensuring that everyone feels well accommodated no matter what their dietary requirements might be. Post-Christmas, Veganuary piggybacks the traditional January focus self-improvement and healthy living and, as a result, we do find that vegan and vegetarian options, as well as lighter meals, are more popular at the beginning of the year than in later months.
We’re also finding that guests are increasingly expecting healthier working lunches throughout the year, meaning that event and meeting organisers are more focused on ensuring that well balanced meals are on offer. To achieve this, De Vere’s Group Nutritionist, Wendy Martinson OBE, has created nutritionally balanced menus as part of the innovative Smart Space concept, designed for meetings and event bookings.
One of the most popular dishes, and my favourite, is the butternut squash red Thai curry with spinach and chickpeas. Guests want something hearty but healthy and we find that dishes with beans, pulses and lentils seem to hit the spot and prove the most popular with guests. A successful vegan dish doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is a good, nutritional balance with a clear source of protein, a range of colourful ingredients – antioxidants are found in the colour pigments of food – and great-tasting flavour, and you’re on to a winner.
Due to the response we've received for our dishes during Veganuary, we are already planning to expand our vegan offering at De Vere. We will be including vegan dishes as part of our central banqueting menu, which spans our portfolio of country mansion houses and event destinations; and at De Vere Wokefield Estate, we are going to trial a separate vegan menu for guests.
Five years ago, we didn’t pro-actively cater for vegans, unless we had a specific request. However, now approximately 10% of De Vere food sales are vegan, with the actual percentage differing across the portfolio. I think we can all agree that this will increase over the next few years with the demand and awareness of the vegan diet and subsequently, we are expanding our vegan offerings in all our properties to cater for this rising trend.