The Meatless Monday campaign has received masses of media attention and enjoys the backing of celebs and chefs alike. Photo courtesy Meatless Monday.
Pizzerias have always been a safe haven for vegetarians; even the most meat-focused menus offer cheese or veggie pizzas. So why not capitalize on what you already offer—and craft some new specialties—to appeal to the ever-growing number of customers who go meatless on Mondays? Meatless Mondays, a nonprofit public health initiative of The Monday Campaigns, was started by chairman Sid Lerner in 2003, in association with Johns Hopkins University.
The campaign’s goal: to reduce the risk of chronic diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer) and conserve environmental resources by encouraging consumers to cut back on meat just one day per week. With the backing of celebrities like Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Crow and Russell Simmons, carnivores, flexitarians, vegetarians, vegans, dieters and eco-conscious customers have joined the movement, as have pizzeria and restaurant operators around the world (including star chef Mario Batali).
For pizzeria operators, a Meatless Monday campaign can boost business on a traditionally slow day and demonstrate to your customers that you care about their health and the environment. “Meatless Monday continues to be a successful campaign for chefs and restaurateurs, because it doesn’t tell anyone to become a vegetarian or expect customers to give up their favorite foods,” Lerner notes. “Just taking one day a week to enjoy a veggie pizza or a plant-based entree helps customers’ health and the health of our planet.”
We tapped operators who are helming successful Meatless Monday campaigns to suss out their secrets for making meat-free a must-try.
Mine your meat-free options.
To launch a Meatless Monday campaign, you needn’t look much further than your own menu. What items do you already offer that are vegetarian-friendly? You’ll want to highlight these items on Mondays. (Just keep in mind that some products, such as Worcestershire sauce, gelatin, and chicken or beef broth contain animal-based ingredients.)
Once you’ve assessed what you already have on hand, you can go the extra mile by whipping up some daily specials on Mondays especially for the meatless crowd. You’ll not only garner extra interest from regulars—you can attract a whole new crowd of fans. “People generally hate Mondays, so having a feature that’s unique to this day makes it a little more special,” says Rocco Agostino, executive chef and partner at Toronto’s Pizzeria Libretto (pizzerialibretto.com). “Meanwhile, appealing to different dietary restrictions makes guests of all sorts feel welcome. As an Italian pizzeria, where many of our dishes are based on pork, it’s especially important to us to make sure we highlight dishes without pork, for those who cannot eat it for dietary or religious reasons.”
Make Mondays special.
While you can simply add or highlight a few meatless dishes at your pizzeria, you can also boost interest by designing special events or themed dinners. Marquis Pizza (marquispizzamenu.com) in Denver, a combination pizzeria and music venue, often hosts Meatless Monday Pizza Parties, offering all-you-can-eat vegan pizzas for $10, plus live music and affordable drinks, for four hours on Monday nights. The all-ages events sell tickets online and at the door, bringing in hordes of guests on a typically slow night.
Zavino Wine Bar Pizzeria (zavino.com), with two locations in Philadelphia, started offering a three-course Meatless Monday Menu at $25 per person, then modified it to two courses at $15 per person. “If a guest wants to substitute one dish for another, it’s no problem at all,” notes Jason Brooke, director of operations for Zavino. “We want guests to order everything on the menu and share.”
Jason Weiner, chef/partner for Almond Restaurants in New York, also offers a separate, reasonably priced menu (including appetizer, entree and dessert) at his three locations for Meatless Mondays. “We spread the word through Facebook, our website and check presenters, and the response has been fantastic,” Weiner says. “The most gratifying thing about it is all of the carnivores who have come along with us.”
Eggplant Parmesan, a staple in Italian restaurants and pizzerias, makes a perfect appetizer for Meatless Mondays. Photo courtesy Zavino.
Enlist the media.
Zavino Wine Bar Pizzeria initially kicked off its Meatless Monday series thanks to media interest in the movement. Owner Greg Dodge always wanted Zavino to offer plenty of healthy dining choices, with a great selection of seasonal veggie options already in place on the menu at its two locations. “But the Meatless Monday idea came from Greg’s relationship with Philly Style Magazine,” Brooke explains. “He noticed that its staff was promoting Meatless Monday and reached out to collaborate with them on the concept. For PR and marketing, Philly Style Magazine did a great job pushing the idea.”
Whether or not your local media is already on the bandwagon, you can create a press release that describes your participation in the Meatless Monday movement. It should explain why you’re getting involved and some stats about how going meat-free one day per week can improve the health of people and the planet. Share the release with TV and radio stations, magazines, newspapers and bloggers in your area. You can even invite local media personalities to come in for a free tasting of your meatless options.
Push specialty salads on social media and in-store to get health-conscious customers amped up for Meatless Mondays. Photo courtesy Zavino.
Create a social media sensation.
Utilizing your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts will help drive success in spreading the word about your Meatless Monday efforts. “We promote the specials differently at each of our restaurants, but nearly all of our restaurants post the meatless special on social media each Monday afternoon, using the hashtag #meatlessmonday,” says Elizabeth Meltz, director of environmental health at B&B Hospitality Group, which includes Meatless Monday devotees such as Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria (ottopizzeria.com) in New York and Las Vegas and Pizzeria Mozza (pizzeriamozza.com) in Los Angeles.
The Meatless Mondays organization adds that you can post Sunday night about the next day’s specials to give customers a taste of what’s to come. You can also post pics of customers enjoying meatless dishes; ask for feedback about your meat-free menu items; share your reasons for participating (such as improving environmental or personal health); and promote discounts or giveaways. “When promoting Meatless Mondays, we predominantly use Twitter and Instagram, and the hashtag #meatlessmondays has been growing hugely in popularity,” Agostino says. “Guests know they can count on a Meatless Monday pizza feature every Monday, but our #meatlessmondays posts always draw new attention.”
Start a conversation.
At Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria and Pizzeria Mozza, chefs design appetizers, pizzas and entrees that appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike. “Customers order the specials because the dishes sound delicious, and then we inform them about the nature of Meatless Monday, so the dish becomes the impetus for a conversation,” Meltz notes. “We instituted Meatless Monday promotions because we agree with the goals of the organization. We offer many vegetarian dishes at each of our restaurants, and Meatless Mondays was a great opportunity to promote those dishes and encourage a dialogue about our eating habits.”
This tactic has helped spread the word, even from celebrity endorsers. Recently, model/actress Molly Sims posted a photo of squash blossoms on her Instagram account and noted she was going to recreate Pizzeria Mozza’s squash blossoms and burrata pizza for Meatless Monday. “Operators should participate because it’s easy,” Meltz says. “Restaurants don’t have to change the way they do business in order to join, but they receive the benefits of increased traffic and visibility.”
Similarly, the promo has boosted buzz about Libretto. Agostino notes that Meatless Monday has become a favorite staple at all of his pizzeria’s locations. “Word-of-mouth, as well as consistency, is the best form of promotion for us,” he says. “Of course, vegetarians are always excited by our Meatless Monday features, but because our items are most often based on what’s local and seasonal, all kinds of people enjoy this weekly feature.” In fact, Agostino adds, he often receives feedback from surprised carnivore guests commenting on Instagram after enjoying a Meatless Monday pizza at Libretto: “Who knew I’d love a meatless pizza so much?”
Stick with it.
Operators agree that consistency is key to building and maintaining Meatless Monday momentum. “Meatless Monday or any promo takes time to build,” Brooke explains. “Each week, you need to let guests know that you offer such a promotion—and sending emails and pictures of the Meatless Monday specials is very important.”
“The best advice we can give to restaurant operators who would like to start featuring Meatless Mondays is to keep it consistent,” Agostino agrees. “Guests need to know that they can rely on you every Monday for a meatless feature—otherwise the program won’t gain momentum or hold as much value to the guest.”
Meanwhile, Zavino spreads and solidifies its circle of friendship with Meatless Monday offerings, leveraging its multiple relationships with local growers and a deep commitment to supporting locally sourced foods. “These once-weekly specials also give our staff another thing to get fired up about,” Brooke adds. “That can’t help but create enthusiastic diners.”
|Maximize Your Meat-Free Momentum|
In-store efforts are crucial to boosting your Meatless Monday sales. The Meatless Monday organization offers free tool kits, promotional ideas, graphics and posters via its website at meatlessmonday.com. The group also recommends these tips for spreading the word: