Sometimes it feels impossible to find healthy, fresh options that are meat- and dairy-free. Even as more and more people want plant-based meals for their own health and to help the planet, many restaurants aren’t keeping up. There is a lack of plant-based entrées on most menus. And food deserts  — where there’s simply no fresh food that’s convenient or available — are everywhere.
In fact, 64 out of the top 100 U.S. restaurant chains don’t offer a single plant-based entrée . With a little encouragement and support, we know that restaurants can do better.
This toolkit gives you a step-by-step guide to creating change in your community and getting more plant-based options on menus in your neighborhood.
In America, we eat three times more meat per capita  than the rest of the world’s average per capita consumption, and more than what’s recommended by our federal dietary guidelines . But this is changing:
- 22 percent of consumers limit their meat, poultry, or seafood consumption .
- The global plant-based market is expected to reach $5 billion by 2020 .
- Plant-based proteins could represent one-third of overall protein consumed in 25 years .
- 30 percent of Millennials report that they eat meat alternatives every day, with 50 percent consuming these at least a few times a week. Only 5 percent of those Millennials are vegetarians .
Take Action for Better Food
For the first time in U.S. history, more people are eating out than cooking at home. That’s where you come in. Now is the time to leverage your dining dollar to get more plant-based entrées in your favorite local restaurants and chains. We can vote with our consumer choices to improve our health, protect the planet, support community health and cultivate compassion for all living beings.
Healthy Customers, Thriving Restaurants
- 9 in 10 consumers agree that “plant-based entrées are generally healthier than meat-based entrées” .
- 66 percent of consumers say that the top reason for increasing plant-based food consumption is to improve health .
- Vegetarians are at a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer and obesity .
There is good news— some restaurants are leaning into the plant-based movement, and they’re reaping the rewards including new customers, savings and positive media. There’s still a long way to go though — we need to expand access beyond the boundaries of communities of privilege and onto the plates of all Americans.
So let’s stand together in calling for more plant-based options. If every restaurant had at least one plant-based entrée, it would allow people to choose a meal that’s better for their health and the planet. That’s how change starts.
Arm yourself with these resources when you’re approaching a restaurant:
Put a positive spin on the interaction with these handouts:
Five Steps to a Greener Menu
Step 1: Take Stock
What is your favorite local restaurant? Where do you eat out most often? Are the restaurant managers friendly and accessible? What are the most popular restaurants in your city?
Step 2: Prepare
Gather your materials (see the tools section above). Less is more. You don’t need a lot of statistics—your voice as a customer is your biggest strength. Speak from the heart and show your passion, whether it’s for health, the planet, food justice, or compassion for animals.
Consider sharing a success story. Restaurants need to hear how having a plant-based entrée can positively impact their image and sales.
Step 3: Deliver the Letter
Stop by the restaurant when it’s not busy and ask to speak with the owner or manager. Give them your letter and other materials.
Keep the interaction friendly and brief. It may be tempting to think bigger if they’re receptive, but remember that targeting one menu item is an achievable change that can have a real impact.
If the owner or manager is not there, you can ask an employee to pass along the materials, but make sure you get contact information for the owner or manager to follow up.
Step 4: Follow Up
Follow up with an email to thank the manager for their time and invite them to share their thoughts and questions.
Dine at your target restaurant (ask them to modify a dish to make it meat-free) and leave a comment card on the table, sharing why you want a permanent plant-based entrée on the menu.
Reach out on the restaurant’s social media accounts and amplify your voice to other followers. Our guide to engaging restaurants on social media includes tips and sample messages.
Step 5: Celebrate!
When you see a new plant-based entreé on the menu, show your support by ordering — and enjoying— it.
Spread the word so others know about the new dish. The best way to ensure plant-based options stay on the menu is for more people to order it.
If you don’t get a response right away, don’t worry. Lasting change takes time and persistence. Keep reaching out to offer support, don’t get discouraged, and get your friends involved.
Let us know how it goes
Links and Resources Cited in the Toolkit
1. Food Deserts
17. Best Practices