Failure to provide good service to vegetarians and vegans could be costing the food service industry £1.8b, according to a new study by the Vegetarian Society.
The survey results, released today at the start of National Vegetarian Week (21-27 May), found that vegetarians accounted for nearly £2.5b-worth of food eaten outside of the home each year, in restaurants, cafés and workplace canteens, but that three-quarters of them were unhappy with what was on offer.
The Big Veggie Survey (2011) showed that lack of choice when eating out was the biggest difficulty veggies faced in relation to their chosen diet, with 75% of vegetarians indicating that it was a problem.
Asked to further indicate what the most important issues were when eating out, respondents to the survey listed "knowing staff understand what it means not to eat meat and that a meal is truly vegetarian".
According to Liz O'Neill from the Vegetarian Society, they have a point: "Contrary to popular opinion, the Big Veggie Survey showed that only 3% of self-declared vegetarians eat fish.
"However, past research commissioned by the Vegetarian Society revealed that 85% of vegetarians have been offered fish as a vegetarian choice, when eating out. If restaurants can't even get that kind of thing right then vegetarian customers are right to be concerned."
She added that the UK catering industry employed more than 1.3 million people and in a recession nobody could afford to lose sales.
"We already know that a single vegetarian in a mixed group has a disproportionate influence on where that group chooses to dine so there's a huge slice of business up for grabs by those willing to pay a bit of attention to the details and offer great meat-free food for all their customers," O'Neill said.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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