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Tender Greens, a Southern California–based quick-serve chain that offers an array of organic and healthy items, recently launched a Meatless Monday campaign in hopes of capitalizing on a growing vegetarian trend among quick-serve consumers.
“We can reach out to our vegetarian customers in which we say ‘Mondays, it’s all about you,’” says Erik Oberholtzer, cofounder of Tender Greens.
Each Monday, Tender Greens creates a special menu that contains only vegetarian and vegan items. “It makes our chefs think out of the box,” Oberholtzer says.
Not only does the Meatless Mondays campaign appeal to vegetarian customers, but it also gives those diners who hit the junk food hard during the weekend a healthy reprieve.
“Mondays are a huge day for us,” Oberholtzer says. “Customers have had beer and probably football food. ... People are looking for something fresh and clean and tasty so they can recover.”
The Meatless Monday campaign is even generating buzz on the Internet among vegetarian and vegan bloggers. The hype, Oberholtzer says, has been very positive, resulting in some “killer Mondays” since the program began in the middle of August.
Denny’s is also attempting to capture market share by offering a vegetarian item. The company unveiled its own meatless menu item in September—Amy’s Veggie Burger, a patty made with vegetables and soy, topped with pepper jack cheese on a wheat bun.
Frances Allen, chief marketing officer for Denny’s, says the motivation behind creating and offering a meatless burger stems from simply giving diners more choices.
“Whether you are a meat lover or a vegan or you are looking for better-for-you options, what we try to supply is a range of options and products at a fair price and great, made-to-order quality,” she says. “This is not a departure for us at all.”
Denny’s is not the first national restaurant chain to offer a vegetarian burger. Burger King began offering the BK Veggie Burger in 2002, with the intention of giving consumers a variety of choices, which fits the company’s “Have It Your Way” motto.
“We are proud to be one of the only quick-service restaurant chains to offer a veggie burger for our guests,” a Burger King representative wrote to QSR in an e-mail. The burger “continues to resonate well with our guests.”
But Oberholtzer says operators must remember that the vast majority of consumers still crave meat.
“Not everyone gets it, which is why we don’t say the entire restaurant is vegetarian on Mondays,” he says. “People would have a heart attack. Not because of eating too much meat, but because they would freak out.”
By Brendan O'Brien