New Ranking Reveals Fast-Food Friendliness for Plant-Based Options at South African Franchises


Demand for plant-based foods prompts more restaurants to bring these to menu


The South African market has a steady appetite for fast-food. Challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing crisis of load-shedding have contributed to a considerable increase in fast-food consumption by South Africans, with a 33.1 percent rise since 2019. 



This market growth provides us with a unique opportunity to pay attention to the current and expanding areas of change in the food industry. The plant-based industry in South Africa has been gradually developing, and reflects a global shift in consumer choices towards more healthy, ethical and environmentally-friendly lifestyles.

The vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian consumer embodies this shift, making up to 10 – 12 percent of the South African consumer base as of 2023. Responding to this demand, national fast-food chains have quickly and innovatively adopted plant-based options, providing exciting new food choices.

The new report looked at the number of plant-based offerings at major Quick Service Restaurants [QSRs] as a central measure for performance. Further conclusions about advertising, consumer perceptions and other aspects provide valuable insights to franchises looking to capitalise. 

Says ProVeg South Africa director Donovan Will, “The report once again highlights significant opportunities available in the plant-based space within QSRs in South Africa; from new products that still need to be developed and gaps on menus to be filled by existing products, to ways for outlets to attract more customers.”

The process started in 2022, with the 2022 Plant-Based Friendly Fast-Food Franchise Ranking, which provided a menu review of plant-based offerings at South Africa’s top fast-food and restaurant franchises. The 2023 report conducts a similar review, with some adjustments made for menu presentation and labelling. All data was gathered and assessed by the ProVeg South Africa team, and ingredients were verified by the companies’ head office or by a restaurant representative. 

The purpose of this report is to scope out the status of the inclusion of plant-based options in the South African fast-food industry, done through a ranking of performance, with the intention of encouraging QSRs to innovate, grow and promote these products. Ultimately, the report finds that, despite this gradual awareness and resulting change, QSRs have many opportunities for growth in the local market. 

The methodology of the ranking followed along similar lines as the 2022 ranking, with some changes made to the evaluation criteria. More focus was given to the immediate needs of the consumer. Overall, QSRs were awarded points based on: the number of plant-based mains, the percentage of plant-based mains, the number of side dishes, the percentage of plant-based side dishes, the number of plant-based desserts, the percentage of plant-based desserts, and finally, the QSRs menu labelling and presentation.

QSRs have many opportunities to expand in the plant-based industry based on the quantity and types of plant-based dishes provided, how they appeal to current and potential consumers, and how well these items are presented on their menus. These businesses have an excellent platform to showcase plant-based eating in an appealing and accessible way to the average fast-food loving South African, and are uniquely positioned to play an influential role in promoting plant-based eating more broadly.

Having robust and prominent advertising campaigns for new additions to menus is one area found to be lacking. Perhaps given that vegans and vegetarians make up less than 3 percent of the South African population, restaurants may believe that the return on investment for advertising may not be fruitful, or drive away omnivorous consumers. However the paradigm is shifting and a lack of advertising may be preventing potential customers from trying new options, which may result in low sales and offerings eventually being taken off the menu. QSRs need to keep in mind that they are targeting flexitarians and omnivores that may be curious about trying plant-based as well. Furthermore, groups of customers may be turning away from choosing a particular chain if one or two of their cohort follows a more plant-based friendly diet, believing that their restaurant of choice may not have options that speak to everyone in the group.

Another factor to take into account is that having even a small percentage of vegan or vegetarian consumers aware of a QSRs plant-based offering goes a long way. Such consumers are usually quite enthusiastic about plant-based food due to a historic lack of options, and can often serve as ambassadors, providing free referral marketing.

Franchises have a golden opportunity to signal to consumers that they are progressive and in touch with current lifestyle shifts by including more plant-based options to their offering. It is essential for QSRs to collaborate with experts to maximise their market potential, and to focus approaches to their plant-based visions, thus seizing the gap to set the tone for the industry across South Africa.

It is clear that the plant-based market is expected to grow over the next ten years, and that fast-food chains are recognising this shift. However, restaurants may not know how to best take advantage of this and need deeper insight into the sector before taking the leap.  QSRs can look to consulting experts, like ProVeg South Africa, who are well positioned to provide tailored insights into the plant-based sector due to their thorough understanding of these consumers, both nationally and internationally.




Media Contact

ProVeg South Africa – Wikus Engelbrecht – Communications Manager: [email protected]; +27 64 172 0120

About ProVeg South Africa:

ProVeg South Africa is the local branch of ProVeg International. ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives.

ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.