A new wave of vegan hospitality – 100% vegan pubs – is providing meat-eaters with a non-intimidating environment to try vegan grub, but what’s given owners the drive and confidence to make the transition?
For Sam Pryor, general manager of Islington, London pub The Blacksmith and The Toffeemaker, making the switch in January 2018 had to happen or he couldn’t continue in the role. The volume of meat he saw thrown away made it a necessity and it was also a logical next step in their sustainability journey. “I didn’t have anything to lose because I didn’t want to work in a pub selling meat anymore,” explained Sam. “We sell everything we make now… We still get the food waste taken away but that’s just when people don’t finish their food rather than coming from the kitchen.”
Meriel Armitage, founder of Club Mexicana, joined forces with publicans Luke McLoughlin and Sherri-Lee Estabrook to launch 100% vegan pub The Spread Eagle in Hackney, London in January 2018. They saw veganism being embraced by the mainstream which gave them the confidence to transform the traditional East End pub into a completely vegan offering – from fixtures and fittings to bar and kitchen.
Luke explained: “It shouldn’t be a closed off community, or intimidating to meat-eaters, so me and Meriel wanted to transform a traditional space into something that was wholly vegan but without all the vegan hallmarks.”
Both pubs have experienced a surge of success with vegans and meat-eaters since switching. For The Blacksmith and The Toffeemaker, business is busier than when they served meat.
On The Spread Eagle’s success, Meriel explained: “Meat-eaters have even been confused with our MFC (Mexican-Fried Chicken) burger – when people order it and find out it’s vegan it blows their minds and we love that!”
It was really important for the pub not to alienate locals who had been coming there for years. “We took the time to list which aspects were important for us to keep (like the barstools) and also got to know them. We love that they still pop in for a drink every week, the place wouldn’t be the same without them,” said Luke.
It’s clear to see that vegan pubs aren’t here as an exclusive club, they want to be accessible for both vegans and meat-eaters. This can only help expose the potential of vegan food to an audience who may not have otherwise tried it.
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