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A Small Business’ Guide to embrace changing consumer trends in Australian hospitality

Are you a local coffee shop owner or a small business? Do you ever find yourself concerned about losing customers due to changing trends and lifestyles? Are the costs of keeping up with these changes a concern? Sadly, you're not alone. The more we speak to our customers, the more we realise that there are concerns that are affecting many of you. It got us to thinking, so we have compiled a few tips to help address some of your challenges.

vegan dish being served in a cafe

In the vibrant world of Australian hospitality, local coffee shops and small cafes play a pivotal role in creating unique and personalised experiences for their customers. These are the places where people gather, swap stories, and savour their favourite brews and bites. They come for the atmosphere as much as the food. But what happens when customer preferences change? How do you keep your small business's essence yet still appeal to the shifts of the market?

Take veganism, for example. With an estimated 3% of the population of Australia identifying as vegan, and reports showing that a vegan diet is among the top 5 diets Australians plan to adopt in 2024, this is a lifestyle choice that is too significant for businesses wishing to be successful, to ignore. Adapting to it might seem expensive and could potentially alter the authenticity of your business, but as we’ve seen and heard, this might not always be the case. As the demand for vegan options continues to rise across the country, it may be time for you to consider the alternatives you need to offer in order to keep your customers happy. 

After all, you likely have allergen-free options for customers, why not take it another step and start offering options to vegans? 

Understanding the Vegan Market

In 2023, two in five Australians say that they are actively reducing their meat consumption. They may not be vegan, but if they are actively reducing consumption of meat products, then the ripple effects will be significant. In other words, the growth of veganism in Australia has been remarkable. Vegans are not different beings who need to be understood,  rather, the key is understanding what veganism means and how to adapt your menu with vegan options.

Adapting to veganism is crucial because it broadens your customer base and ensures long-term relevance. As veganism continues to grow, businesses that fail to adapt may risk losing market share and face challenges in remaining competitive.

A group of friends enjoying food and drink in a hospitality venue

Embrace technology and save money

Small businesses often need more resources, and introducing a whole new range of vegan dishes may seem daunting, as a small business. Technology can be your ally in embracing the vegan revolution. Starting small and expanding based on customer interest allows you to adapt to veganism without overwhelming your resources. Here's how:

1. Use AI

AI opens you to the world and will allow you to source popular vegan recipes and adapt them as your own.
Start by adding a few vegan options to your menu and gauge customer interest. You don't have to create a whole new vegan menu; just make a few alterations. You can expand your offerings as you receive positive feedback and see growing demand.

2. Give the customer control with QR code ordering

Use QR Ordering systems to set up customisable menus, which allow the consumer to add/remove certain ingredients from their dish. This not only allows dishes to be made vegan-friendly but also ensures that other dietary requirements and allergens are looked after. This will help you reduce the cost of printing and reprinting menus. 

You can still keep the interaction and personal touch with your customers, while utilising technology to enhance the customer experience. 

Reimagine some of your existing dishes to make them vegan-friendly. For instance, a vegetarian pasta can quickly become vegan by switching to dairy-free cheese and cream alternatives. Simply, having the option of making a dish vegan can expand your current market.

customer being handed a coffee in a cafe

3. Local and Seasonal Ingredients

Sourcing ingredients locally and in-season can reduce costs and minimise waste associated with vegan menu items. It's a sustainable and budget-friendly approach. Partnering with local suppliers who provide vegan products can be a cost-effective way to source vegan ingredients and support your community. Small businesses can also explore group purchasing with neighbouring businesses to reduce costs.

4. Understanding your customers and build an online presence

Establish an online presence and sell more through social media, websites, or food delivery platforms. Make it easy for potential customers to see what you do and to get excited, help them to find your vegan offerings and place orders, all integrated into your kitchen through your POS. 

Engaging with the local community and collaborating with vegan influencers can help create awareness. Social media and email marketing can be potent tools for promoting your vegan menu.

5. Leverage Customer insights

Invest in a POS system that allows you to customise your menu quickly and track customer preferences. Loyalty programs and the ability to mine customer data to see trends quickly will allow you to maximise the customer experience. 

the right technology can help streamline your operations and reduce errors in orders. You need a POS (such as OOLIO) that is user-friendly and easy to use, even for new staff. Use technology to engage with your customers, gather feedback, and build a loyal following.


From restaurant chains to small businesses and even one-man shops, the Australian hospitality industry has a unique opportunity to thrive by embracing the vegan movement. By understanding the vegan market, implementing cost-effective strategies, leveraging technology, and engaging with the local community, you can not only meet the evolving expectations of your customers but also stand out in a competitive landscape. Embracing veganism isn't just about following a trend; it's a strategic move that can lead to long-term success in the changing world of hospitality.

To learn more about how technology can help you grow your business and adapt to changing consumer preferences, get in touch with our specialists.