Notes From The Scientific Department

How Many People Order Vegetarian Meals When Eating Out?

To gauge the demand for meatless meals in restaurants, The Vegetarian Resource Group conducted a poll to find out how often customers were ordering vegetarian. We were surprised by the results.

Though our previous polls indicate about one percent of the country is vegetarian (no meat, fish, or fowl), about five times as many people say that when eating out, they always order a dish without meat, fish or fowl (5.5%). And over half of the population (57%) sometimes, often, or always orders a vegetarian item. (See total of 1, 2, and 3 in poll results table.)

These statistics certainly give restaurant owners and foodservice managers something to think about. There is an exploding demand for meatless meals.

However, to make life complicated, 39% say they never order a dish without meat, fish, or fowl. Almost the same amount of Americans have sometimes ordered a vegetarian meal.

This means there are many tastes to which foodservice staff must cater. It's not as easy as offering one item for everybody. But if a vegetarian item tastes good, about half the population will eat it. So food companies and restaurants should keep working on those veggie entrees.

Poll Results

When you eat out, do you...

Total Male Female
1. Sometimes order a dish without meat, fish, or fowl 40.8%  37% 45%
2. Often order a dish without meat, fish, or fowl 11.7% 10%  14%
3. Always order a dish without meat, fish, or fowl 5.5% 5%  6%
4. Never order a dish without meat, fish or fowl 38.9% 45% 33%

The poll of 1,181 adults nationwide was conducted in March 1999 by Zogby International. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.12%. Error margins are higher for subgroups.

When you eat out, do you Always order a dish without meat, fish or fowl?

Total 5.5%  Eastern United States 8.0%
Full time student 4.6% South 3.9%
Income below $15,000 8.0% Central/Great Lakes 5.9%
Income over $75,000 4.4% West 4.3%
White 5.5% 18-29 years of ag 11.7%
Afro-American 4.5% 30-49 years of age 5.2%
Asian 26.4%

VRG Aids New York State Office for the Aging

Meatless Menu Alternatives for Your Senior Clients.  The publication was used as a handout to accompany a teleconference on Nutrition Research and the Elderly. During this teleconference, information on healthy menu planning including meatless menu alternatives was presented, and one of the menus in the VRG publication was highlighted.

The teleconference was broadcast throughout New York State in two parts and aired this past May 12 and June 3. The intended audience was individuals involved in the Elderly Nutrition Program, including agency on aging directors, nutrition coordinators and nutritionists, advisory council members, nutrition providers, site managers, local legislators, and others who have a role in setting program direction.