server apron

When facing difficult situations, restaurateurs often face stark decisions on what they are willing to do to ensure that their business and the vision and mission that it is built upon can survive, even if it means doing what was seemingly unthinkable.

Alongside the ethically sourced produce, the sustainable aprons and uniforms, and ensuring as minimal a carbon footprint as possible, vegan restaurants are built on strong ethical values, often built around harmony with nature and having as positive an impact on the planet as possible.

However, for vegan businesses that are struggling to survive during a difficult financial period, they have been forced to ask themselves whether it is better for the mission of providing high-quality ethical dining choices to compromise and serve non-vegan options, or to close entirely.

In California, one of the great hubs of vegan dining, several restaurants that established an entirely plant-based menu have ultimately started to sell meat dishes.

Similar stories have been found in the United Kingdom, where Nomas Gastrobar owner Adonis Norouznia candidly explained his decision to add “responsibly sourced” meat and dairy options as a necessity to keep the restaurant open.

This story was even found in one of the first-ever vegetarian Michelin Star restaurants. L’Arpege moved to a completely meat-free menu in 2001, before reintroducing both meat and fish back onto the menu later in smaller portions.

The motives in both cases were different; head chef Alain Passard was not entirely driven by ethics to get rid of meat from his dishes; he was, in his own words, uninspired, and the return of meat and fish to dishes was not out of necessity but to add additional flavors and textures to his dishes.

The question is whether it is better to have a predominantly vegan or vegetable-forward menu but serve meat options that are as ethical as possible, or to go bankrupt.

For the vegan restaurants that chose the former, time will tell whether it provided the economic boost they needed to continue their mission.

February 14, 2024 — Jake Blakey