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What is a Vegetarian Restaurant?

A vegetarian restaurant does not serve meat, fish, or poultry. However, vegetarianism is a multi-faceted concept, and vegetarian restaurants cast a wide net to feed their customers.

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Vegetarian Restaurant

1. What is a vegetarian restaurant?

A vegetarian restaurant does not serve meat, fish, or poultry. However, vegetarianism is a multi-faceted concept, and vegetarian restaurants cast a wide net to feed their customers. 

There are vegan purists who avoid all animal-derivative food, including butter and dairy. On the other hand, some vegetarians eat eggs and even fish. This is why you’ll likely see at least some animal products on menus. 

Nearly across the board, vegetarian restaurants spotlight organic, fresh produce and feature a variety of grains and meatless protein sources, from tempeh to legumes. Whether it’s a fine dining establishment or a casual grab-n-go lunch spot, the focus is on clean eating and nutrition.

2. What is the history of vegetarian restaurants?

A smattering of vegetarian restaurants opened in the U.S. in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until the Pure Food and Drink Act of 1906 that the idea got off the ground. The Act was inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle, and its descriptions of the unsanitary conditions of the meatpacking industry. 

More and more people turned to meatless eating, and vegetarian cafes at the time began to emerge. The second wave arrived in the 1970s with the counterculture inspired food revolution. The mantra of eating fresh, local, and seasonal is credited to California chefs in the ‘70s who paved the way for the mainstreaming of vegetarianism.

3. What is typically on a vegetarian restaurant menu?

Vegetarian menus are built around vegetables, grains, and beans and typically include salads, wraps, bowls, and stir-fries. People seek out vegetarian restaurants for various reasons, whether they’re true vegetarians, flirting with the idea, or have food allergies. 

Menus almost always have nutritional information and category designations such as gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and so on. Since ethical eating and vegetarianism go hand-in-hand, menus often include detailed sourcing information, such as the farms where the produce is grown.

4. How do you start a vegetarian restaurant?

It’s important to develop a clear idea of the type of dishes you’ll serve and the customers you hope to attract. While you know one thing for sure — the restaurant will be meatless — there are many roads you can go down. 

Will you offer some animal-based products like eggs and butter? Are you thinking of grain bowls and wraps? Or perhaps you’re recreating classic comfort food dishes like burgers and fried chicken in vegetarian form. 

It’s especially important to identify farmers, produce, and plant-based meat suppliers and begin forming partnerships early on. When researching locations for your restaurant, keep in mind that you may need extra refrigerator storage or walk-in coolers.

5. How much does it cost to start avegetarian restaurant?

Most restaurants operate on a 40-40-20 percent basis, with 40 percent covering food costs, 40 percent going to operating and overhead costs and 20 percent left as gross profit. 

Because vegetarian restaurants rely heavily on high-quality, seasonal, and organic produce, the consumable costs may run higher than other restaurants. According to data from RestaurantOwner.com, the estimated median startup cost for a restaurant is $350,000, including equipment, renovations, labor, and other expenses. The actual amount may be lower or higher depending on many factors.

6. Most popular types of vegetarian restaurants

The most popular vegetarian restaurants offer a little bit of everything to capture all types of customers, from vegans to omnivores looking to reduce their meat intake. Comfort food and snackable dishes –– like meat-free pizza, burgers, tacos, and sandwiches –– allow customers to indulge in healthy, guilt-free ways and hold the broadest appeal. 

Restaurants that break the mold of what a vegetarian restaurant can be, with innovative twists on familiar foods, are in demand. 


Today’s vegetarian restaurants serve high-quality, innovative fare that is miles away from the stereotype of years past. With an estimated 20 million vegetarian adults, there is strong potential for growth in the vegetarian dining scene.

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