For several weeks I’ve had a preview copy of The Reducetarian Solution on my desk. More importantly, I’ve had the book’s topic—“How the surprisingly simple act of reducing the amount of meat in your diet can transform your health and the planet”—on my mind. The book rolls off the presses on the 18th of this month, and Brian Kateman’s compilation of more than 70 concise essays makes it wonderfully conducive to quick reads and provocative thinking.
Kateman is president and cofounder of The Reducetarian Foundation, which is going to host a summit in New York City next month, regrettably the same weekend (May 20–21) as the annual National Restaurant Association conference in Chicago.
There’s been a lot of talk in our industry about bringing more plant-based dishes to the menu, giving veggies and grains more prominent positions on the plate, and downsizing the servings of animal-based proteins. The reducetarian movement follows in that same vein—and what I love about this mindset is that it preaches the advantages of moderation. That’s basically the approach that the Meatless Monday campaign has endeavored to promote.
In addition to the obvious implications for each of us as individuals, I think there’s an opportunity for restaurants to truly make a difference with these movements—but it warrants more than putting one or two vegetarian options on the menu.
What if restaurants served exclusively meatless dishes on Monday? That’s right, I’m talking zero animal-based proteins. Maybe keep the dairy, but give the meat a rest.
And it could even be leveraged as a way to motivate traffic on what is the slowest night of the week for many restaurants. Meat-loving consumers, who don’t know beans about grilling eggplant or putting together a flavorful plant-based entrée but who sincerely want to eat healthier and make a baby step toward sustainability, might become Monday regulars. (Yes, count me in that group.)
I’m also wishing I’d had this epiphany before I talked with Cameron Mitchell about his eponymous restaurant group and the dynamic impact the culture he’s created has had on the dining scene in Columbus, Ohio, and beyond. Given the iconic steakhouse brands in his portfolio (Ocean Prime has locations coast to coast), it’s hard to imagine that his restaurants would jump on the idea of excluding meat-based proteins, even just one day. And yet, he’s all about entrepreneurial ethics, forward-thinking concepts, and raising the bar on hospitality expectations for everyone else in the industry. He’s also a man who believes in acting on ideas—and with the Millennial Concept Challenge his group is hosting, he’ll be building out the vision of his young associates. Perhaps one of those will have a plant-based focus.