Not so long ago, vegans were made to feel unwelcome in most restaurants, where more often than not vegetables served only as a platform for a plate of bloody protein.
Nowadays, a dish of manipulated vegetables has a place of prominence on most menus—and with the price and self-righteousness to match.
Planta, a plant-based restaurant in Toronto (never, ever, call it vegan), was once notorious for its “Carrot Dog,” a pair of smoked carrots served in turmeric-scented vegan buns. Monarque in Montreal charges $22 for a slice of pan-fried broccoli. Two stems of organic broccoli from Harvest Wagon, Toronto’s toniest produce store, costs $7.99, while a bunch of heirloom carrots is approximately $5.
Turning a vegetable into a swoon-worthy meal can mean many hours and different preparations by a restaurant kitchen, but the price per pound does not compare to that of a well-aged steak (ribeye at Cumbrae’s rings in at $33.99 a pound). When the standard restaurant food costing formula hovers near 25% it makes no sense that the menu price for relatively cheap vegetable-based items should be priced on menus similarly to dishes based on much more expensive proteins like fish, poultry and beef. Unless of course vegan food costing is instead closer to 10 or 15%. How do restaurants justify it?
The good news for restaurant owners is that they don’t have to. Vegan diners are apparently willing to pay nearly any price in the hopes they are helping the environment and their own health. Restaurants Canada is predicting the vegan trend is only going to increase. Good news for restaurants and their bottom line, we think. As for diners, we’re not sure yet. — EMMA WAVERMAN