The Rise and Rise of Vegetarian Restaurants

by Willie Biggart

With the announcement that sandwich chain Pret A Manger is to open a pop-up vegetarian only restaurant in Soho next month , it has to be asked what will wash in next on the tide of vegetarian restaurants - a meat-free McDonald's? Don't laugh, one-in-ten adults in the UK are already either vegetarian or vegan while millions more are what are described as 'Flexitarian', a group of carnivores who realize they can find something to eat in a vegetarian restaurant without their world collapsing. And canny restaurateurs with an eye on future eating trends should take note that as many as 20 percent of the 16-24 age group have given up on meat. Pre-16 teenagers would perhaps do the same, if their mums would let them.

Pret A Manger have put the success of their veggie sales, 17,000 Super Bowls a week; containing beetroot, squash and feta, down to the popularity of the ubiquitous avocado, selling 5m of these delicious pears. And perhaps it is down to better transportation and refrigeration techniques that brings us such previously unusual fruits, which makes eating vegetarian such an attractive option today, compared to the stereotypical nut cutlet of the past.

And it is not only the stereotypically bland vegetarian food that has receded into history. The image of the modern vegetarian is no longer the sincere, sandal wearing liberal of the seventies; now vegetarianism has connotations of clean, healthy eating and positive lifestyle choices. And this vibrant new market are seeking restaurants which not only care about the providence of the food, but are also stylish establishments.

This has created a virtuous circle. As more quality eateries open up to cater for this growing young food-conscious market, so the demand grows for even more enticing vegetarian and vegan restaurants to encourage yet more customers to be attracted in by the new places. And if it isn't tempting enough to eat out on exotic dishes such as Tagine L’Algerienne or Warm Walnut Panna Cotta and Blue Stilton Dumplings, a new study from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona found that vegetarianism could increase your life-span by almost four years.

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