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Tammie Ortlieb Tammie Ortlieb Tammie Ortlieb

COVID-19’s Impact on Vegan Businesses (And How You Can Help)

Nearly four years ago, VegOut “opened shop” to connect individuals looking for vegan options with businesses that had those options to offer. From day one, we have been a guide working to forward the vegan movement. From helping our audience maintain a plant-based lifestyle through providing engaging print and digital content and resources, to offering a platform for vegan shops of all sizes to be seen, we like to think we have done our small part for the planet, the animals, and your health.

Sticking True to Our Mission

That said, the world is now facing a situation none of us could have predicted. The current pandemic has thrown us into isolation, uncertainty, and confusion. We at VegOut have been hard at work to continue to bring you the content you need to find quality vegan food and supplies. We appreciate that you have continued to support the companies you love during this difficult time. Unfortunately, we see many of these businesses struggling, forced to let go of employees or to close shop completely.

A Word From the Industry

We spoke with some local business owners about how the pandemic has impacted their daily operations. Asher Brown, founder of Pollution Studios (an LA-based content production studio), shared that “Our offices and film studios have been shut down by order of the city of LA. All broadcast commercial projects have been put on hold, and many of our clients feel uncertain about their future. However we have seen a strong uptick in desire for marketing and social media consulting, digital ad creation, and for influencer and branded content that can be filmed remotely.”

Matthias Brandt and Eric Funk, of LA-based restaurant, Hinterhof, told us “business has gone down to less than 10% of what it was before … [and we] went from 21 employees to only owner operated and a cook here and there.” Jacky Wasserman of vegan clothing company, BEETxBEET, has also felt the strain of having to restrategize and work independently, saying, “The biggest change is encouraging my in person shopper to keep supporting through the online store. I think I'm also going to have to become my #1 model. No models and no new photoshoots is tricky when coming up with new content, so maybe you'll be seeing a lot more of me.”

A Focus on Service

Those who have remained open for takeout and delivery continue to maintain their quality service. According to Alison Cruddas of vegan restaurant, Boddhi Bowl, “Apart from having to close, I haven't changed much. We have always had very strict cleaning rules here.” Being able to continue to offer their products, getting to know customers on a more personal level, and making efforts to adapt their business model to the given situation has put many owners in a unique position—doing what they can to keep doors open while experiencing unexpected forced growth at the same time.

Janette Fernandez, founder of JRF Consulting, in charge of branding and marketing for Monty’s, Nic’s on Beverly, and other vegan restaurants, for example, states that “A few of my clients have decided to close their doors in order to keep their employees safe. Others have decided to stay open with a skeleton crew and limited menu. They are turning their restaurants into small grocery shops and serving family packs. They are trying to be creative in order to stay afloat.”

Business Strategy

Others are taking this time to prepare for future endeavors. Matthew Kenney, celebrity chef and owner of a number of vegan restaurants (including Plant Food + Wine, Double Zero, and more), shares that, “The slowdown … has provided us with an opportunity to accelerate new initiatives, including our new education platform, which we'll announce in a few days, and to reassess our role in how we may help others understand the value in choosing a plant based lifestyle.”

Similarly, that beloved food truck we’ve come to know and love as Original Herbivore is taking this opportunity to strategize quickly and redirect their business, launching their new online deli with delivery covering Los Angeles county. Despite the business shift, Sebastian Baranek (Original Herbivore’s owner) notes that “even if not directly affected by income loss, [people] are watching spending at the moment” and some “are just scared to order from the restaurant, fearing infection.”

Community Initiatives

In addition to individual business growth, new community initiatives have come out of the restaurant shutdown mandate. Hinterhof’s Brandt and Funk add, “We … are so humbled by the opportunity to be a partner restaurant for SUPPORT + FEED, which helps a group of plant-based LA restaurants, that in turn … provide meals for various, vetted organizations and groups who have been greatly impacted by the crisis such as first responders, hospitals, and senior centers.”

Fernandez adds, “Maggie Baird and our small team created SUPPORT + FEED to help plant-based businesses that are fighting to keep their business afloat. It is a way of giving back to first responders and others in need while supporting restaurants. If we want to get through this, it has to be a collective effort.”

The Takeaway

Like Fernandez, others in the industry remain hopeful and even optimistic about the impact the pandemic will have on the vegan movement in general. Asher Brown says, “Short term, this is not a great time to be running a small business. Long term, I think a lot of people are going to realize how much their consumption choices matter. We've been saying for a long time that global problems require global solutions, and that veganism isn't just about food – it's about compassion for all and an understanding that we need to use our voices to speak out for those who cannot. The world needs more ethical consumption right now, and the plant-based brands we work with like Follow Your Heart, Veggie Grill, Imperfect Produce, and Beyond Meat are uniquely positioned to lead the way.”

How You Can Help

The vegan movement has seen much growth in the past few years. By continuing to support these businesses, you will assure that what momentum we gained in the plant-based community will not be lost. Below are some ways you can personally help your favorite vegan shop while they are temporarily closed or compromised:

  • Order takeout or delivery
  • Purchase a gift card to be used later
  • Gift a business with ad space
  • Choose pop-ups and all-vegan establishments over big chain restaurants
  • Discover unique spots to purchase everyday items, then buy in bulk (coffee beans from your go-to coffee shop?)
  • Leave a glowing Google or Yelp review
  • Share a vegan restaurant’s posts to encourage your friends to shop with them

Strength in Community

The current state of our nation calls for us to come together as a vegan family. The economic consequences of this pandemic are bigger than any one business or any individual need. We are a community that, in the best of times, encourages and lifts each other. Let us come together now even stronger in these times of challenge to show the country what a plant-based lifestyle truly means—love, peace, and the understanding that “If I support my neighbor, I support myself.” We will learn to adapt and change in this chaos, but we will continue to forward the vegan movement as we have from the beginning—through community, compassion, and building each other up as we would have others build us.

 

RELATED: Billie Eilish's Mom Partners With L.A. Vegan Restaurants to Feed Those in Need


Want even more vegan news, food, and lifestyle content? Subscribe to VegOut LA Magazine or VegOut NYC Magazine!

Tammie Ortlieb

@tammieortlieb

Tammie, a vegan of 17 years, is a former psychology professor and self-proclaimed wellness guru. Indie author, kindness ambassador, and big dreamer, she’s just a girl, standing in front of a broken US food system, asking it to be vegan.

Articles by Tammie
Tammie Ortlieb

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