Nomas Gastrobar hits back at "keyboard demon" vegans following 'difficult but necessary decision'
Many restaurants are struggling under the weight of the cost of living crisis, either taking cost-cutting measures or simply closing down.
Nomas Gastrobar in Macclesfield, a local vegan spot since April 2020, has made the 'difficult but necessary decision' to start serving meat in order to survive as an ongoing business.
When owner Adonis Norouznia made the announcement on Tuesday, it's fair to say that while many wished them well, a number of vocal vegans made their thoughts known.
"Enjoy moral bankruptcy"
"How many animals do you think deserve to die so your business can succeed?"
David Adamson spoke with Adonis about the decision, the reaction of the "keyboard demons" and the challenges of running a vegan restaurant.
David (D): So Adonis, since you opened in April 2020 how has business been?
Adonis (A): Like a roller coaster. I would say we had a very good start; during COVID we opened and everybody came to try this new place that's opened in Macclesfield. We had a very good regular customer base, and some of them are still our customers. But slowly, we started losing customers because more cafes began to open who were offering vegan options, so a vegan person is not bound to come just here, they can go anywhere.
Then on the other hand, the people who are not vegan, they might not prefer to come here, so we started losing customers from day one. They would walk in, look at the menu, see that everything is vegan and walk out. That was a loss for the business, and we have been losing customers and money for three years now.
I was spending day and night breaking my fingers to fit out the restaurant and get it open, my wife and I had one baby and another baby on the way, and I sacrificed a lot to build it and make it what it is today. If I don't make money from this business, I don't have bread to take to my table. 90% of our products were organic, so that people could try our philosophy of a healthy diet.
D: 90%: which I imagine is expensive for the business.
A: Very expensive. Vegan products are more expensive than normal products. Milk, for example. One litre of plant-based milk is £1.50. With £1.50 you can buy three litres of cow’s milk.
Another example is vegan mayonnaise. We buy a big tub of 2.5 litres for £19. With the normal egg mayonnaise, a 5 litre double portion is £11 pounds. Can you see the difference?
Vegan products are seen as premium, and premium products are more expensive. But my prices are not more expensive. We don't say 'You're going to pay £20 for a burger because it's vegan'. No. I still have very competitive prices for the market. My food menu was priced the same from October 2021 to October 2023 while everything went up. I wanted it to be affordable for people, but I didn't see that reflected in the sales. We even had Manchester's Finest come in. We've tried everything. I understand that people have difficulties but we have them too.
D: So, as a vegan yourself, how did it make you feel to make the decision to start serving meat?
A: It wasn't an easy decision. It doesn't make me feel good. Personally, I'm not going to change what I believe in and what I eat. I'm not going to change but that's personal. If I'm vegan, I'm vegan for my reasons. If you are vegan, you're vegan for your reasons. Okay? The business is the business, and when I see that the business is not making enough money, I have to find ways to make it survive.
It's a pity. If you walk down the street where we are there are nine coffee shops within 50 metres. I have two tables all day, meanwhile there are queues into the other ones because people want to have cow's milk with their coffee, or they want to have normal sausages or bacon that we don't have. I have two customers sitting in and two staff members looking at them. Where's the support? You know what I mean? People find it very easy to go and post negative comments, but I don't want those negative customers, I want the positive ones who say 'Great, my partner is not vegan so now it's an opportunity for me to bring them'.
D: What would you say to those that were leaving comments like "Enjoy your moral bankruptcy" and "How many animals do you think deserve to die so your business can succeed?"
A: The people who are blaming me for moral bankruptcy; I'd be more than happy to give them my direct debit and they can pay my bills. If they're running a business and they find difficulties, I'd like to see what they would decide to do. They're keyboard demons, you know? They sit behind a computer and put all the hate on the keyboard. Write everything nasty, crucify people. What do they do? Who are they?
I'm happy to take advice from people who have achieved something better than me. Because that's where I'm going. I'm going forward, no matter what. Show me someone who's more successful, and I will follow their lead. But if you're working 9 to 5 in an office and you do sales or you sell cosmetics, you have nothing to do with hospitality. You have not run a business by yourself, and seen how it is. Sorry, but I cannot take your advice. You have your opinion, okay. I have a different one.
The business has to survive, and I'm not a quitter. We've been losing customers for three years now. It's not going to hurt me if I lose those 2% of vegan people because they're very extreme or they're activists blah, blah, blah. I was expecting that. I'm happy to lose those 2% and get another 10% who are not vegan and who are happy to come because I changed my menu.
We looked at those very nasty comments. First of all, they've never been here because we know our customers. Second of all, if they have been it was maybe once - that's why we don't remember them. And third of all, one of them lives in Bristol. One of them lives in Newcastle. Come on guys. Let's be honest, you're not even in Macclesfield. And the people who said "I was thinking about coming but now I'm not". Thinking about coming is not paying my bills, buddy.
Where were those nasty people who put those comments when we needed support over the last three years. Nowhere. They were sat behind their computer, eating their snacks and complaining.
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