My husband is the owner of a vegan restaurant here in NYC and I recently overheard him on the phone with a friend of his. He was giving some advice about how to go about opening a new place and said this: “As far as competition, I’m not worried about the vegan restaurant down the street – I’m more worried about the burger place next door.”
The thought struck me as interesting and insightful: truly, where IS the real competition for vegan restaurants? I think, for many people in the vegan world, it’s natural to think, “Well, obviously, the competition is in the other vegan places!” This might not be true, and in fact, might just be a harmful chain of thought.
With more people interested in eating vegan and adopting a healthier lifestyle everyday, the incredible growth of vegan businesses can only be good for all of us – including other vegan businesses. For a business owner, although it can be hard to think this way, the truth is that if a consumer is choosing to go to the vegan restaurant down the street from your own, instead of the ubiquitous burger joint, it’s better for everyone: the consumer’s health, vegan businesses in general, and especially, the animals. The real goal shouldn’t be dissuading consumers from other vegan restaurants, it should be dissuading consumers from eating animals.
In the past four years of being vegan, I’ve seen it all: there have been times I’ve seen vegan restaurants ruthlessly fighting over customers and even bad-mouthing each other in public. But then, I’ve also seen the other side of the coin: vegan business owners doing everything they can to help new, emerging businesses, showing people the ropes, and rooting for their success.
Being vegan is supposed to be about compassion: that compassion should extend to everyone and everything. If you’re not serving up animals for dinner, you’re definitely helping the cause, but then if you’re turning around and insulting someone just to gain more business, it not only sets a bad example, it also harms someone who could potentially be helping you save those animals.