Have you planned to do a launch before introducing your new plant based menu items?
And not just your food menu. Your vegan protein smoothie and other beverages can all be part of the promotion. Even if you only have three plant based items out of a menu of 20 meals, launching your new menu items keep guests excited and your staff creative.
It’s becoming common practice to rotate or renew menus to offer seasonally appropriate foods. Marketing your new menu with buzz words like “fresh” or “seasonal” won’t help you stand out anymore. You’ve got to out think your competition and create new ways to draw diners in.
Promoting new vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian friendly menu items is a great way to find a new angle. With demand growing, you’re guaranteed to find new customers too!
Take a look at these creative menu marketing strategies to generate buzz about your plant based menu release.
The great thing about McDonald’s is that they have a lot of different things on the menu. I love their salads.
Why launch your plant based menu
Good Press is what cafe, restaurant, hotel and tourism operators need for success. A new menu featuring plant based items can garner the attention of local press and diners if marketed properly.
Plant based food news is in demand for ‘good news story’ media content. Adjusting menus can be practical and fun for chefs and bartenders. But the opportunity it creates for press coverage and renewed interest in your venue is often underestimated.
Your smart marketing and PR approach to launching a new menu is what will bring in the money.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Even if you only have a couple of very cool menu items to launch, this can get out of hand!
When you use these marketing strategies to launch your plant based menu with a public event, realise that you may run out of stock.
If you sell out during your launch, what should you do? It can be awkward, but you can turn it into a good thing for publicity. Here are examples of how others handle it:
- KFC’s public test launch of their new vegan chicken menu item completely sold out during the event. They had to turn away customers!
- Dominoes introduced vegan cheese for their pizzas in Australia and then stores sold out faster than they could restock.
- Ohio pop-up plant based outlet Foodhisattva kept completely selling out within 1 to 2 hours, so they used it in their new menu and venue launch media commentary.
So, start with an understanding of your capability and plan your launch event day backwards from there to avoid disappointing people. It helps to set expectations. In your pre-event media, you might send out a late night post like: “We have 250 plant based patties ready for our new Eco Burger launch in the morning. I hope that’s enough! See you tomorrow!”
Now you’ve been warned, we can give you the marketing strategies without feeling guilty!
Our top 3 marketing strategies for your menu launch
Considering how to launch your new plant based menu items? Try these 3 easy marketing strategies.
1. Create a pre-launch menu tasting party
No one needs a real reason to party, but we’re always accepting if you give us one.
A new menu is definitely an excuse to celebrate. Think of your new menu release like a pop artist’s new album release. They (the label) book out a club, create an exclusive event, and let people listen to a the new tracks and dub it a “Listening Party.”
Why can’t you celebrate the launch of your new menu the same way?
Throw an invitation-only party and create tasting portions of your plant based meals, roll out the party bus and pass out your new drinks in the 1oz portions to take as “shots”. Pump up the party with music that fits your venue’s style and let everyone get have a great time.
The point is: have fun with it!
Think carefully about who you invite. Ask them for feedback.
If you implement tweaks to improve your plant based meals before you launch, let everyone know about it! They’ll feel great that they have been a part of co-creating your new menu.
You will build customer loyalty and the authenticity of your brand in the local market.
2. Partner with a local charity
If you’re operating a cafe, restaurant, or hotel, you’re already an important part of your community.
Dining out is a social experience. Your new menu launch can help promote and reinforce the strength of local volunteer and charity organisations. They can promote your new menu launch; you can promote them to raise money and attract volunteers.
There are a variety of ways you can partner. We recommend simply:
Pledge to donate a percentage of sales on certain menu items or drinks to the group.
For example, during your Earth Day launch event you’ll donate 10% of the sale of all vegan desserts to the charity. You’ll also place collateral in your venue for a month that calls for volunteers to join the charity. In exchange, ask them to promote your launch day event through their media channels and provide quotes for your social media and media releases/interviews.
You know your local community. Talk to them and work out partnership ideas to support the launch of your new plant based menu. These authentic win-win connections can attract incredible numbers of new customers!
So, which group do you call? The types of charities where you will find people who follow plant based diets include:
- animal welfare (e.g. “animal aid” in the title);
- outreach groups (e.g. local PETA chapters);
- animal re-homing groups (e.g. “SPCA” society for protection of cruelty to animals)
- wildlife rescue groups (e.g. rehabilitation and re-release of injured native birds)
Unless you are a fully vegetarian or vegan venue, or willing to become one (yippee!), we recommend only partnering with wildlife rescue groups for a menu launch.
Why? The whole objective of most of the other groups is to prevent the death of animals such as farm animals. Yes, they will love that you’re adding new plant based items. But you want to ask for their help to endorse your new menu items for your launch. This will be a confronting decision for them if your other menu items include meat. Some members may be ok with it. Others may not.
Offer to support your local wildlife rescue group. Their focus on wildlife will give you the best chance of a fast ‘yes’!
These sort of little niche differences are what we at jacoi specialise in. Follow our advice. Avoid the drama! Partner with your local wildlife rescue group for the menu launch. You’ll get the best results.
3. Create a public menu launch event
Again, cultivate an atmosphere of celebration. Send out invitations!
Invite these people to your launch day to try your new plant based menu items:
- Your existing customers! Promote your launch in-store and through your other existing marketing channels.
- Local media (e.g. search recent local news stories to identify people who covers plant based food and venues).
- The members of your local vegetarian and vegan meet-up groups and social media groups (e.g. Detroit Vegetarian and Vegan Group on Facebook). Get permission from the administrators well in advance, if you want to do this.
- The families and friends of your team.
- A novelty entertainer (optional). Find someone who is a good match for your venue, but not too intrusive. Do you have a ‘high tea’ style venue with a garden outlook? Try a string quartet quietly playing off to the side in the garden.
Take video and photos during the launch day, featuring close ups of your food and ‘behind the scenes’ happy launch day kitchen chaos. Embed the footage in a media release and your social media post(s). Include a fun fact. For example: “We sold 40 kilos of Detroit farmer Joe Smith’s tomatoes in our new plant based Eco Burgers yesterday!”
Send your launch day footage out within two days to say thank you. You’ll get great engagement!
Optional Strategy: Bundle the strategies to make your launch bigger
Bring these strategies together!
Create a huge buzz that attracts new customers to find you. Make existing customers excited about their next visit.
Try it. Once you learn how to launch your new plant based menu items you can renew and re-launch again to build on the excitement. Each time you re-launch, reconnect with your customers and partners to grow your customer numbers and loyalty further.
Key points to take away
- Seek advice for your menu from local meetup groups and social media groups, then celebrate with them!
- Partner with your local wildlife rescue charity for endorsement.
- Ask for feedback on the menu items you launch. Try to implement the ideas. Then tell people you acted on the advice, and say thank you.
- Be ready with a strategy for how you will handle selling out during your menu launch event!
- Combine multiple marketing strategies together if you can!
Yes, we didn’t. It wasn’t an accident.
The rise of the foodie has had both a good and a bad side. There are the frustrating effects: huge egos, fake experts, and the launching of a million Instagrams. There can be positive side effects for cafe, restaurant, hotel and tourism operators; the increased interest in food.
Although it feels like there is a growing number of opportunities for you to get your name in the headlines, engaging with bloggers can be a very inefficient and expensive way to launch your new plant based menu.
To us, it’s a total waste of time unless you’re a huge multi-site franchise.
*mic drop* Did they just say that?
Why? Why not use vegan, vegetarian or other food bloggers to help launch your menu?
It’s too hard to find quality, and you really do need to do your homework when it comes to blogs and bloggers. Anyone can post a blog on a WordPress page and ramble on about the vegan donuts they had yesterday.
But try finding a local blogger with followers in your market catchment that has a good reputation and following, creates well written pieces… and takes great photos?
Then there are the ‘freebies’. Have you been approached by a “food blogger” who asks free meals, plus cash? It takes time to ask to see a breakdown of their website traffic. It takes effort to find out about their social media shares volume. Blogging, like much of the internet, is important and valuable. But we want to help you attract new customers with the launch of your plant based menu items. Connecting with bloggers just isn’t an easy way to do it.
Stick with cultivating authentic connections with local plant based groups as you launch your new menu. Use the marketing strategies we have listed above instead.
That is, unless you have time and money to waste.
Thanks for reading! xox jacoi