View Full Version : How to complain to caterers/food outlets about lack of vegan option?

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Mar 23rd, 2009, 02:56 PM
As per thread title really. I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand I feel compelled to say my piece and remind the parties concerned that vegans do exist and are consumers like everyone else. On the other hand I think sod 'em, I'll just continue to ensure I always have a packed lunch with me and not give them my money, but it would be nice to have the choice.

What prompts this is that on Saturday I was part of a large family birthday outing to the Guildford Leisure Centre. Youngest son was twenty one and he wanted to do the whole Ice Skating, Swimming and Bowling thing. As I always do I took a packed lunch, 'cos I knew there would be nowt for me amongt the various junk food outlets. I wasn't wrong, I was unable to find one thing to eat. What did get up my nose though was the large sign stating that only food purchased at one of the retail outlets could be consumed there. Naturally I ignored this and proceeded to munch away, willing someone to have a go.

I was just wondering if anyone has had any experience of complaining about lack of provision for vegans and the best approach to take. I'm guessing that they don't care anyway as there are more than enough corpse chompers to keep them in business.

I did fire off an email, basically sayng that as this was a leisure centre, with presumably, an interest in promoting a healthy lifestyle I found the choice of coronary inducing burger bars et al rather puzzling. I also pointed out that offering menu items which do not contain meat and/or dairy would not cause the sky to collapse and civilisation to come to an immediate end. Gits. :mad:

Mar 23rd, 2009, 03:12 PM
I'm not really sure what advice to give on this but I found your post very funny! (sorry to laugh at your lack of a decent lunch). I went to the Docklands Museum with my parents on Saturday and had chips and an apple for lunch. I wasn't too bothered though as I knew I was having a lovely vegan meal later. Living in London it's mostly easy to avoid places where there's nothing to eat but if you can't avoid it, it is annoying isn't it? I suppose the Vegan Society's 'Catering for All' is a good resource to point people to and in general, independent places probably appreciate the advice but where all the choices are fast food giants, I don't think there's much hope of us making an impact. Cynical hat on today. It's good you wrote to them though - if anything, at least they'll realise vegans can have a sense of humour!

Mar 23rd, 2009, 03:18 PM
Haha. I was in a program the other week, and we were scheduled to go to a famous little restaurant that I'd never been to called Ben's Chili Bowl. When I found that chili and meat were to entire point of the place, I called them up and found out that they hadn't a clue what "vegan" was. So I told my trip leader I didn't want to go, and he ended up stopping to get me some Chinese food which I ate there. Everyone else ate disgusting wieners with globs of chili and cheese. They were like, "I could eat here every day!" And I'm like, "You'll be dead before long..."

Anyway... whenever I contact restaurants or caterers about adding vegan options or whether such-and-such food is vegan, they usually never bother replying. I think restaurants tend to not like taking e-mails or phone calls anyway unless they do take-out.

Mar 23rd, 2009, 04:51 PM
I have done once or twice. I think I tried to point out the commercial advantages of vegan food, including the fact that the raw ingredients can be relatively cheap and that other people, not just vegans, will eat it. Also any other advantages relevant to their "brand", e.g. if they have a "green" image then it fits in with that. The health tack was a good one for you to take. Sending them the Vegan Society catering booket/PDF seems a good idea in case they don't know what you're talking about.

Can't think of any instances where my letters have had a noticeable effect, but constant dripping and all that. Anyway I think my letters have been to chains whereas one to an individual leisure centre might have more impact (because you might actually reach someone who could make a decision). I suppose you could try copying your MP and/or the local paper, especially if they're unresponsive and you have to write a second time.

Mar 23rd, 2009, 07:36 PM
I think it's worth emailing places anyway, even if your individual email doesn't have an immediate effect maybe they'll get a few more people say the same thing in the future and that might make them think a bit. I think it's worth showing that there is demand and also pointing out it's not just vegans who would eat vegan food, emphasise the healthy eating aspect too. Maybe suggesting ideas of dishes that could fit in with their menu might help?

Mar 23rd, 2009, 08:27 PM
Please get yourself the ANIMAL ACTIVIST group. Recently published.
PACKED with great ideas on how to make an impact and change things.
There's a whole chapter on letter writing and how to tackle restaurants etc.

I HIGHLY recommend it.
I just finished reading it and am on my way to start doing everything I can
that's written there.

Mar 23rd, 2009, 08:28 PM
Sorry, the full name is:


Mar 23rd, 2009, 10:40 PM
More and more I find that I write a note to places that were disappointing for dining. I don't always speak up when I should, but for some of us, thoughtfully putting our thoughts in writing comes across better anyway.

Even if doesn't make an immediate difference, hopefully it starts to make them aware and eventually if enough people do so, things can change - maybe not enough to end animal agriculture in my lifetime, but ....Back in the 1970s it was nearly impossible to get even a meat free meal at a restaurant - overall, in society in general, it's not nearly as difficult now as it was then (even though we've got a long way to go) - the power of making people aware today can only making being vegan a little easier for all of us down the road. (and of course, translating into a few less animals killed, which is really the important point).

Mar 31st, 2009, 11:30 AM
Oh well, over a week has gone by but still no reply (searches for 'knock me down with a feather' icon).

Mar 31st, 2009, 12:05 PM
In addition to speaking to them about the matter and your experiences I would point them toward the: Vegan Society Catering Guide (http://www.vegansociety.com/images/VeganCateringForAll.pdf)

Not only does it give recipe examples and explains clearly what vegans eat but it also give a list of suppliers and shows that a professional organisation exists promoting veganism.

You can request hard copies from the vegan society if you contact them :)

Mar 31st, 2009, 08:13 PM
I usually contact places like that beforehand (I visit if I can, it has more impact). If you are part of a large group they are more likely to make the effort as they'll worry if they can't cater for you the whole party will go elsewhere. I don't suppose that makes much difference to the normal menu options they offer though.

Mar 31st, 2009, 10:54 PM
I agree, it's always best to contact these places well in advance too :D

Apr 1st, 2009, 12:11 AM
where I can I contact in advance eg my brother's family wedding dinner was at a carvery. I rang them up and they were fine with me bringing sandwiches and as things turned out there were many yummy veggies and gravy that were vegan so it was OK.
but often I'm in places where it's more difficult but speaking to them about it in a friendly way it's usually easy enough to get something put together that's vegan or they will let be pop out for something nearby and eat it there. A pub I frequent that does great food some of it vegan in the evenings but only non-vegan baguettes during the day they let me go a few doors down for a vegan sandwich and eat it in there. The same thing goes in other places. At London bridge my train usually goes from platform 1 which has a Ritazza coffee shop, they ran out of soya milk but they let me get a tea from another place but still drink it in their shop being on warm and on my platform.

I'm often surprised by just how helpful they can be just being friendly when speaking to them about it at the time.

Apr 1st, 2009, 12:54 AM
If places don't do vegan wine I often get agreement to bring my own! I offer to pay a corkage charge (though often they decline to charge it but it shows that I'm not being a cheapskate and trying to do them out of their profit!)

Apr 1st, 2009, 12:58 AM
indeed, that's something I've done before too. Like when bringing drink into pogo you give them a pound donation or in some pubs if just popping in for the loo you pop something in the charity box, that sort of thing.

Apr 3rd, 2009, 12:39 PM
I don't think that in this particular instance contacting the venue beforehand would have really helped. Had we been going out for a meal it would have been a different matter, but on this occasion the 'dining' element was very much a secondary consideration.

I am the only vegan in my family and my veganism is, at best, grudgingly tolerated through gritted teeth when they are in a charitable mood. Most are lacto-ovo vegetarians, but regard veganism as beyond the pale and my dietary preferences are mostly a source of seething, snarling resentment. I shudder to contemplate the reaction if I insisted on boycotting the event myself or insisted on finding a venue which offered skating/bowling/swimming and a vegan food option. I think I can say with confidence that no such place exists, certainly not within reasonable travelling distance.

Apr 3rd, 2009, 12:57 PM
I think it is always worth contacting the venue to ask if they can provide vegan options, if we all do this even if they say no. It shows that there is a demand for such animal free products/options out there :)

Apr 3rd, 2009, 01:01 PM
It's difficult with the sort of place Jiffy's describing though because if I'm understanding correctly it's a sort of food hall type place with multiple outlets and nobody in overall control? I guess you'd have to target one or two of the more likely outlets.

It seems amazing none of them could manage anything, not even the traditional vegan delicacy of a baked potato with nothing on it and a couple of salad leaves :p

Apr 3rd, 2009, 01:04 PM
where I can I contact in advance eg my brother's family wedding dinner was at a carvery. I rang them up and they were fine with me bringing sandwiches and as things turned out there were many yummy veggies and gravy that were vegan so it was OK..

I thought this when i went to a carvery with my family, i rang ahead and asked if i could just have the veg and they said yes they'd just charge me childrens rates. at the time i was vegetarian not vegan and when i went up to get my food i asked for a plate and he handed me one with his hands full of meat from where he'd been carving and i had meat juice all over my plate so i had to ask for a clean one. then there was a dead dragonfly in the cauliflower cheese...i pointed this out, expecting him to be mortified and take the whole dish away but instead he just picked it out with his fingers (still covered in meat juice) and threw it on the floor. i think i munched on a few peas that night and left the rest....ugh!!

Apr 3rd, 2009, 01:07 PM
this one was thankfully not too bad for that

Apr 3rd, 2009, 02:24 PM
I was at a function buffet a few months ago, and although I wasn't too concerned about eating there,, when I learned that there were some vegan foods on the buffetI was curious. There were some spicy potato wedges and some toasted bread thingies with spinach and herbs. What made me laugh was, I got a handful of wedges and 2 of the toast things, next few minutes the omnivore bunch had eaten them all!I thought hold on, those are all I have to eat, you have your pick of it all yet choose to take my only bits!

Apr 3rd, 2009, 02:25 PM
sounds about right in experience

Apr 3rd, 2009, 03:39 PM
That always happens doesn't it? Which makes it even more annoying when caterers play the 'no demand for vegan weirdness' card.

Apr 3rd, 2009, 04:13 PM
vegan chilli even seems more popular than omni chilli in my experience

Apr 10th, 2009, 06:34 PM
Right, the weather is better, how about getting some nice packed lunch together and getting some vit D? Soaked apricots, homemade houmous with sprouted bread....I like to avoid eating out: more unhealthy food, more expensive (could buy more cds with the money, give to animal welfare charities, etc), less fresh air if inside, too many places' mistakes made with vegan food. I very rarely eat out. I've taken food or bought and eaten from packet. I guess I'd only eat out at vegetarian or vegan places as less likely to get animal products in food because of people misunderstanding, not hearing you properly what you require, not caring or whatever. They are other things to do like gigs, renting films, etc