There is a small local restaurant that offers vegetarian options that no one knows about. What can I do to let people know?
The simplest way to promote a restaurant is through word of mouth. Tell people about the restaurant's vegetarian options in conversation, text, email, blog, you name it- or more appropriately, say it. You can also create reviews on websites that feature vegetarian friendly restaurants, and even ones that don't. If you enjoy eating at the restaurant, bring people with you who haven't been there before. If you decide that more people simply MUST try the restaurant, sponsor a restaurant gathering with a local group/club that would be interested in having a vegetarian meal. Make sure that before you recommend this restaurant's great vegetarian options, that the items are truly vegetarian so that you don't mislead people. You should discuss the definitions of 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' with the owner, and offering to help them determine whether menu items are veg is a good idea too. You can find definitions at http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/vegan.htm, and ingredient information at http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/ingredientguide.htm. You might consider providing these links to the restaurant owner as well, as they may be a helpful resource to them in the future.
When you have determined that the restaurant's options are in fact vegetarian, you might suggest that they have a separate vegetarian menu made for those items. For people that already go to the restaurant but don't know the options, this is a great resource to have on hand so they can be aware of available vegetarian options.
When I first began eating at the Rice King in Provo, Utah, all I thought I could order was 'golden tofu' and 'curry tofu'. It wasn't until a few months later I finally realized that they offered soy meats and could make most dishes vegan by omitting the meat and adding soy protein. It was surprising to me that even though many vegetarians ate there, most of us only knew about a few options. After trying 'new' dishes and realizing that other people would probably like them, a friend and I suggested they create a vegetarian menu to hand out with their regular menu. Since the Rice King is a small business that does not have all the financial resources that larger businesses do, a friend and I ended up creating the menu for them. It might have not been the best looking menu, but it got the job done. According to the owner, sales of vegetarian food at Rice King increased by 25% after the veggie menu was developed. If you are in a similar situation with a small restaurant, here are some ideas on how to create a menu.
Creating a Vegetarian Menu
When you decide to work with a restaurant to create a vegetarian menu, be aware that a lot of work and dedication will be required. Also, make sure that the owners definitely want you to make the menu before you begin. When you first present the idea to the owners, assure them that there is not much to lose with making a menu, especially if you are the one making it. Even if the menu doesn't attract new vegetarian customers, it can help the existing ones and possibly increase sales with them.
Depending on what the restaurant owner wants, you can create anything from a fun and festive menu, to a more professional looking one. Don't be afraid to spend time trying things out. There are a lot of different scenarios you can run into with vegetarian friendly restaurants, so decide accordingly what to do for your situation.
If you do end up creating a vegetarian menu, consider passing it out at various locations (school) and events (veg gatherings), basically anywhere you can think of where people will want it. You never know who will find the menu useful and it doesn't hurt to try.
I hope this information is helpful! Good luck!
Written by Kristen Lambert during her internship at VRG