Co-founder Rob tells us about his experience with trying to order vegan foods in some cafes. It’s not as easy as some people might think.
As someone who hasn’t even got to my six month anniversary of being a vegan I’m still finding my feet when it comes what restaurants and cafes are best suited to me in Galway – the county in Ireland where I live. Loughrea currently has a multitude of different places to eat during the day, ranging from long established family run cafes and bakeries to new modern cafe/bistro type places so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a place that has vegan choices.
Please note the last word in that paragraph. Choices. Having AN option is not a choice. A choice would require at least two options, minimum.
On my days off I like to meet my husband for lunch as he works in the town and is only ever five minutes away from wherever I’ll be. I arrive early and order for him so it’s here when he gets here.
So far we’ve tried Hopes Bakery, Roots Cafe & Bistro, The Hungry Bookworm, The Galway Plaza and Cafe Jaz. How well did I fair when trying to get vegan foods?
Well, in Hopes and Cafe Jaz there was zero vegan options. A couple of vegetarian ones but nothing for vegans. Something that’s quite popular here is to have a “deli” counter. This isn’t like deli counters in the UK where you go and order your cold meats or potato salads, but instead it’s the counter where your sandwiches are made. Everything is laid out and you pick what you want. It works well most of the time. In Cafe Jaz it’s just there for show.
I always arrive at these places early as I know lunchtimes, especially at Hopes, will get busy and we might not get as table. So I get there early and relax with a coffee. Going into the Jaz I was greeted by the lady behind the counter who said “order at the till dear!” I’d literally just walked through the door. Looking at the menu there was nothing there for me. Not even a vegetarian option I could change to be vegan. Turning it over I found I could create my own sandwich. This would be fine as I could choose whatever I wanted. Looking at the options in the deli counter I could choose from the usual salad items but from what I could make out I’d have to have to dry as there didn’t seem to be an alternative to butter and all the sauces I could see were non-vegan. As I went to ask if they had any vegan spread or sauces as my mouth opened I was honked at my the same woman and told to order at the till. AS I got to the till the lady serving stood up and walked away! So I headed back to the deli counter – all of three foot away! This time I didn’t even get chance to ask anything or even open my mouth before the previous woman was there again and once again, like a scolded child, I was ordered to order from the till.
So Cafe Jaz failed in everything, not just not have a vegan option but having zero customer service skills as well. Won’t be going back there.
But what about the others.
Well, for choice the Galway Plaza wins hands down, but they would. This is a motorway service stop and a nice one at that. Always clean and always with friendly staff. Okay so the staff at Papa Johns are utterly incompetent but everything is good. They only win on choices because of their size really. In there you have a full service deli counter with hot and cold food, then there’s their answer to Subway, SubCity (I think), next to that is Papa Johns is you fancy a pizza and then at the end there’s a SuperMacs. Spoiled for choice, see. But, it is a motorway truck stop. No amount of choice will change that.
As for Hopes, well, again no vegan option, but there did have plenty of vegetarian options that could be changed to become vegan. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to have vegan choices.
Roots Cafe & Bistro, a fairly new place to Loughrea with a modern looking interior does well on customer service but no so well on choices. On the breakfast menu there is one vegan option and that’s a bowl of berries with some non-diary yoghurt. On the lunch menu, which is filled with options for everyone else, there’s only one vegan option and that’s a plant based burger. Now to give them credit when I asked if they’d do me something vegan from the various other food stuffs they have there was no problem with this and they were very accommodating.
The Hungry Bookworm will always come out tops for customer service, decor and the quality of the food but again, the vegans choices are minimal. Luckily for me I didn’t need to ask them to alter anything as the one big vegan option they had was just what I wanted and it was lovely.
If I had to rate the places we’ve been so far out of ten, they’d come out like this.
Cafe Jaz – 0
Hopes Bakery – 4
Galway Plaza – 6*
Roots Cafe & Bistro – 8
The Hungry Bookworm – 8
*The Plaza have the advantage of being so big and having four different concessions in there so it kinda feels unfair to include them in this but, when your options are limited you take what you can.
All I’d say to these places is that it isn’t difficult to find substitutes. Run into SuperValu or Aldi and pick up some vegan sausages for the breakfast, grab some vegan spread or vegan mayo for your sandwiches, take a look at your menu and see what you can change.
Veganism is on the rise. How do I know? Because as a new vegan I’ve looked into it while looking for replacements. As more vegans appear you’re going to have to cater for them or lose business. I’m not a preachy vegan, my husband is a meat eater and I’ll happily cook him a meat dinner but if we’re going out we’ll look for places that suit both of us. If you’re not one of them you’ll lose out and as more people turn to veganism you’ll lose out even more.