Veggie Option is a plant-based restaurant review and lifestyle run by friends, both vegetarian and flexitarian who wanted to make the vegetarian food scene more exciting and accesible. They share the story behind the Veggie Option and why they will last.
The team come from diverse backgrounds; arts, technology, design, banking and the food industry and were united in our frustration with eating out and having no or limited plant-based menu options. We’d had enough mushroom risotto or avocado on toast and wanted something different. There is demand for plant-forward food and we wanted to challenge the industry to think more creatively, to push boundaries and give plant-based diners a dining experience on par with that of meat-eaters. We are also passionate about eating more plants and creating a positive social and environmental impact. Veggie Option’s Founder-in-Chief, Deniz Harut is an internationally experienced impact investor, so food and sustainability have always been important.
What’s your why?
The idea was born whilst on a road trip and we found it extremely difficult to find places nearby to eat on our travels. Between Happy Cow and Trip Advisor we felt we were missing the real experience. We thought, ‘Why is it so difficult to find good vegetarian food?’ nearby. That day, we shared a plate of cucumbers and boiled potatoes. Then, we thought how great it would be if someone suggested where to go for plant-based options in restaurants, any restaurant, not just those that were overtly vegetarian or vegan. Surely that would help make eating out a bit less of a hassle? In London alone, there are about 17,000 restaurants and it is likely that most, if not all of them offer at least one vegetarian or vegan menu option, we decided to work our way through these restaurants and see what was on offer and see whether they are any good. So, this is how and why we started
What do you stand for?
We want to be a reliable information source for plant-based diners to know here to find delicious and inspiring plant-based food and make better decisions. Even if you’re not strictly plant-based and are looking for a restaurant to accommodate plant and non-plant-based diners, you will be able to find a restaurant or café near you that works for everyone. We also want to be able to link people with new and exciting products that are designed for a plant-forward lifestyle. We want to be an authority on where to find good food, but also to open the conversation about food doing good.
What’s your competitive advantage?
From intimate cafes to fine dining, we visit any restaurant and provide reviews from a plant-based perspective. We rate restaurants for the quality of their plant-based options, knowledge of the staff in terms of various dietary requirements, as well as, their sustainability ethos are key. Other review sites don’t do that. We needed clarity and when we found it too difficult to find, we took it on as our mission. We do not get paid by the restaurants, so it is an honest review of our experience. We also hope to help people find food outside of London, because, let’s face it, it’s much easier to eat plant-based in London than it is anywhere else in the UK.
Why will you last?
There is a rapidly growing market for providing plant-based food and products. We don’t see that trend changing, particularly with the damage that the consumption of meat is doing to the environment. These are global trends and it means that Veggie Option isn’t only relevant to people living in or visiting London, but all over the world.
What are you most excited by?
We are excited to be launching our new website. It will have all of capabilities of other review sites, but more). So, stay tuned as we will be announcing a series of events to celebrate our launch. We are also excited to expand to restaurants outside of London and to the rest of Europe and are thinking about the possibilities that come along with mixing travel and food.
What role has social media played in your success?
We launched on and are primarily based on social media at present, although we do have a shiny new website coming soon. We have seen a steady growth in followers and engagement and are enjoying testing out what content our followers enjoy most. Part of our reason for being in this business is to raise awareness about issues in our food system. As a result, we are carefully selecting the campaigns that we hope to support as our brand grows.
How do you want people to feel when they use your products?
We want people to trust us. Our reviews are completely independent, and we are our customer-base, so we give you information that we and other plant-based people find helpful.
Who is your ideal collaboration with?
We would love to curate bespoke menus and events with restaurants such as Scully’s and with pop-ups like Plates or with other well-known plant-based chefs, like Anna Jones. We would also quite like the challenge of working with very meat focused restaurants like Hawksmoor and helping them to look after their plant-based diners as well as they do their meat-eaters. We are also open to working with other chefs, products and food producers who understand the importance of looking after our food system, reducing food waste and most importantly, with a plant-focus.
Biggest challenge to date and how did you overcome it?
To date, our biggest challenge has been getting the design of the website right. But we have a great team of developers and we are making it happen. Also, there is always the nervousness about making sure everything is perfect before taking it to market, but we are doing something new, so we are testing what works and learning as we go.
App you can’t live without?
We live by Asana, a project and workflow planning system that you can access via computer or your phone. It is important as we are all spread out and working on Veggie Option at different times of the day and on different parts of the project. Having one system to provide an overview of the work that needs to be done and a way to work collaborative is crucial, so Asana has been great. Oh, and Instagram.
Most useful tool/tip for a start up?
We think it is important to surround yourself with reliable people. People who are thinkers and doers. And don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, don’t over think or over-engineer things. Test things out, and if they don’t work, make changes. It’s important to let those lessons learned help shape the business.