Weathering the Pandemic

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In this special issue, we tell you what’s going on behind the COVID restaurant scenes and answer the question: How are vegan restaurants coping with pandemic-restrictions?

During a week when national events signal hope on the horizon, much-needed support might not arrive soon enough for some restaurants. Your friends might lose their server jobs, and you might say goodbye to one, two, or more vegan restaurants soon. It hasn’t happened yet, but the probability of it occurring grows.

Because of pandemic-induced restrictions, the community can’t eat indoors right now, which, unfortunately, has affected restaurant revenue. Vendors have seen sales reduced by 50% on a good day and up to 80% on a bad one. “We have seen a tremendous slowdown in sales since the city switched to stage 5, and we went back to curbside service only,” says Amelia Raley, co-founder and co-owner of Sweet Ritual and co-owner of Big Nonna’s.

Some restaurants make everything from scratch, so the cost of food is mostly labor. They mark up entrees only a little to keep prices lower, reducing the items’ profit margin. “We used to sell a lot of coffee, tea, and other drinks to balance this out,” says Sue Davis, founder, owner and chef at Counter Culture. Now, “When people order to-go, they’re less likely to buy drinks, apps and desserts,” continues Davis. These items offset labor costs.

And the restrictions aren’t only affecting regular, local dine-in service. “Our catering sales have dried up, and our tourist customer base is about 5% of what it used to be,” says Davis.

Since March, Davis has been able to keep 50% of Counter Culture’s staff, a worthwhile expense. But employees aren’t the only expense Davis keeps. Other fees include full rent, utilities, workers compensation insurance, building insurance, taxes, repairs, and additional costs that haven’t decreased since the pandemic-restrictions went into place.

But despite the challenges, Raley and Davis continue to pivot their efforts. “We just sent out a five-dollar coupon for our Square users to redeem. That helped our sales immensely,” says Raley. Davis also keeps the outlook positive, “We are rolling out weekly meal plans, and we are still able to donate food weekly to anyone in need. Plus, we’ve gotten great reviews and feedback, and that keeps us going!”

What can you do to help?

  • Order drinks, appetizers, and desserts with your takeout and delivery orders.
  • Include a tip and tip well. Servers still process orders and package them for delivery. Some also deliver your food.
  • Leave positive reviews.
  • Share your positive experiences (past or present) on social media and tag the restaurants.
  • Buy gift cards.

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In Austin Veg News

The Vegan Yacht boasts new extended hours.

There’s a new drink spot in town. Even Keel opened its doors in December. They specialize in cold brew and CBD infusion beverages using natural Texas spring water from Hill Springs. You can also get coffee, yaupon tea, and hibiscus tea. They’re open Monday–Friday, from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, at 6519 North Lamar Blvd.

Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food remains closed for now.

HapPea Vegans announce their move to Cheer Up Charlies. They will open in the new location Thursday, January 21.

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Austin Veg in the Media

Lil’ Nonna’s is one of “7 Austin culinary projects granted $30,000 by local nonprofit,” according to CultureMap Austin.

Austin Veg Events

Revolution Vegan Kitchen presents “The Vegan Shop-up,” Saturday, January 23, from 12:00–4:00 PM.

The Vegan Sushi Spot will drop by Austin for its second pop on Sunday, January 24. You’ll be able to find them at 1106 East 11th Street from 12:00–8:00 PM.

It’s not exactly Austin, but we think “The Official Presidential Inauguration of Joe Biden & Kamala Harris” is worth mentioning. It will take place Wednesday, January 20, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

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Austin Veg Delights

Check out Explore Vegan ATX’s first episode of their third season, highlighting Lick It Up Austin: “Lickin’ up all of the Vegan Mexican Food!

Austin Veg Jobs

Sweet Ritual seeks a part-time, front of house ice cream scooper.


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