I have traveled a lot over the last 20 years, 10 of them as a vegetarian. As you all well know, restaurant menu offerings around this planet for vegetarians can be a bit meager at times (God bless the Vegans in this regard). I have become a bit tired of my choices in most restaurants being restricted to a veggie burger, pasta or a salad (if anything at all).
In the same breath, in some unique places, I have come across some amazing and creative vegetarian foods from all parts of the world. I have often thought "If I could only bring this type of vegetarian food back home to Canada, people wouldn't care weather it was vegetarian".
So I did, and my wife and I opened up a little restaurant not far from Queens University in Kingston Ontario to serve these great international vegetarian foods (that also cater to our vegan friends).
So where am I going with all this. Since we have been open we have had some great customers pass through our doors who tell us they love the food ect. However, I was hoping that being close to a University like Queens, and it's a big school, that we would at least attract the veggie student population. That hasn't happened even after our best efforts to advertise as our little place is now hurting. We are the only vegetarian restaurant in town.
What am I missing here as time is running out.
Posted by webmaster at 01/08/08 20:32:22Hi LHB,
The restaurant business sure seems tough. Is your place called "Lotus Heart Blossoms"? If not, and you're not listed yet please add your place, here:
Without visiting it's hard to give advice. Your business model could also have a lot to do with success.
There are some experts on this subject who use HappyCow regularly, so I suggest you watch this topic.
Also, if you are Lotus Heart Blossoms, I suggest you contact Sophia_ about her review if you feel it's not accurate.
We're very happy that your vegetarian business exists. Wish you the best of luck!
Posted by JohnnySensible at 01/17/08 04:28:30Be brave !
Go vegan !
Your menu is obsolete ! - 70's / 80's style - carcinjogenic - downright dangerous.
"Vegetarian" is dead ! - murderous / cruel to cows / goats / chickens.
Once you go vegan announce the fact loudly & proudly with a leafleting campaign.
Take recipes from here - http://www.theppk.com/recipes/dbrecipes/index.php
Take some wild names / ideas from here - http://www.cafegratitude.com/menu
Posted by Ventguy at 01/17/08 22:30:56I don't know a lot about the restaurant business but I do a lot of promotion for my own business.
How much advertising have you done on or near campus? Do you offer a student discount? Do some flyer ditribution on campus or near campus.
Just a few thoughts from a fellow Canadian who is happily vegetarian.
Note to johnnysensible - you want to be vegan - knock yourself out but you don't need to put down others.
Posted by LHB at 01/18/08 11:54:03Thank you all for your comments.
I have recently picked up a copy of VWAV and Isa has some great vegan recipe ideas. As our menu currently stands about 75% of it can be made vegan for you which I believe gives lots of latitude for everyone.
I do believe that simply knowing about our place may be more the issue. Many of the suggestions that you mention we have recently implemented. Kingston is a great city, we will see if our efforts bear any fruit. (You wouldn't happen to have a couple of spare days to help spend promoting our place ;) )
Thank you all again.
Posted by Tatiana at 01/18/08 17:15:07LHB - I checked out you website, I like the colors and layout! I'm gonna agree with johnny on some things here, I think if you want to get more college students you might consider adding some new types of entrees to the menu. Many of the items seem like vegetarian versions of diner type foods. Now there is not anything necessarily wrong with that, but often the younger crowd likes more funky and unique items. I also agree that you could change a lot of the entree names. You could still do a burger but make the name sound funky and fun! Cafe Gratitude is one of my favorite restaurants and they definitely have a unique way to name their foods that so many of their customers love. And I'll tell you they definitely get new business as so many people are intrigued by the names. They have even been featured on the local news due to their unique ideas.
As far as advertising, try to do something on campus. Maybe a contest, taste testing, coupons, something like that. Remember, getting the word out costs money. And also remember college kids like deals and freebies so if you can get them in the door with that (which seems to be the problem, not keeping them, but getting them to come in the first place) then you may just have yourselves a loyal returning customer. One more thought: do you have Wifi, couches, other places students can study? That can make a big difference as well.
Good luck and if I'm ever in the area I'd love to come by!
..oh yeah, and add Happycow to your links on your site!
Posted by JohnnySensible at 01/19/08 01:32:37Grass Root Organic Restaurant in Tampa, Florida -
http://www.happycow.net/north_america/usa/florida/tampa/index.html#5742 - you may like their menu / mood - just a tiny amount of dairy / honey used in some preparations.
Menu - look at all 6 pages - http://www.thegrassrootlife.com/salads.html
A great way to link to HappyCow - http://www.thegrassrootlife.com/raves.html
Posted by LHB at 01/19/08 09:49:33Hi Tatiana,
You have some good suggestions, thank you.
Cafe Gratitude, from what I see in their website (what a wonderful site), they are a philosophy more than a restaurant. We too have a philosophy and atmosphere we strive to express to our customers. I will chat with my boss (wife) on how this can best be expressed through our menu.
We have been advertising in the student newspaper (offering student discounts) since the day we opened. This hasn't had much of a result. We have also been handing out flyers on campus and have received a very warm response from everyone we have encountered. I like this more personnel touch and can only hope these individuals will drop by and try our restaurant.
In so far as other on campus activities, we will have to wait for things to thaw out here a little bit first.
Posted by gr8vegan at 03/07/08 04:28:30LHB, you need to check out www.drmcdougall.com and spend a few days reading / watching the free electures, etc. Once you understand how to use food to heal you can educate your client base to the benefits of the McDougall Starch based diet by using hand outs and old copies of the McDougall Plan from amazon.com and used book stores. I've probably eaten at more vegan restaurants than anyone in the world and few are health supporting to the point where I'd consider eating there more than once a month. The portion sizes and fat content are so large we always split our meals. Dr. McDougall has 1000s of recipes and cooking DVDs. I'd eat daily at a McDougall friendly restaurant if one existed near me.
Bottom line - convert to a McDougall Diet & Menu after educating yourself then educate your diners and watch as they turn into daily regulars.
Most vegan restaurants serve a Birthday for breakfast, Thanksgiving for lunch and Christmas for dinner. Nothing healthy or environmentally friendly about that.