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With interest in plant based eating reaching new levels every week, more and more businesses are looking to capitalize on this emerging field. Venturing into a new market has its pitfalls. In the case of food service, offerings that tick the plant based or vegan boxes can cause confusion for those not in the know. This can be as straightforward as the inclusion of honey, which technically, is not a vegan food item, or the recent confusion around avocados and whether or not they meet the criteria despite quite explicitly being a plant.
Enter Carl Rodgers, Ireland's first and only trained Vegan Consultant. His company, Vegolution Vegan Consultancy, looks to guide businesses operating in the hospitality sector on how exactly to navigate this new culinary world. Drawing on his own 5+ years of experience as a chef in Ireland, we spoke to him about market trends and the opportunities & challenges in the sector.
I’m highlighting that for the simple fact that there will be a massive demand for this kind of service in the near future
Carl Rodgers, Irish Vegan Hospitality Consultant
What does The Vegolution Vegan Consulting Do?
In simple terms, I help restaurants and all other aspiring businesses within the hospitality industry to capitalise on the rapidly growing vegan market. This is achieved through a professional menu evaluation, recipe development and highly effective staff training to ensure that all staff are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to optimally serve vegan customers from start to finish.
I also offer my services to supermarkets by helping managers and floor staff to better understand the shopping experience through the eyes of their vegan customers.
What Inspired You To Start Vegan consulting in Ireland?
I was inspired to start vegan consulting in Ireland as there are so many businesses that are failing to adapt to our evolving food scene. Like many other vegans, I’ve been in several situations where I’ve had to explain to serving staff what I will and won’t eat, only to be served a bland salad, or something that actually contains animal products. This is unacceptable in 2020 and it’s this kind of sub-optimal service that unfortunately leads to businesses receiving negative reviews or a bad reputation. The chaos that ensues in the kitchen after a “specific” order is placed by a vegan customer can easily be avoided with the correct knowledge and preparation.
Big changes are coming fast to our entire food industry and the hospitality industry is one area in particular that desperately needs upskilling. All of this led me to seek out professional training by Vegan Hospitality™, who offer the only program of its type in the world.
What are the benefits for a business to use your service?
As I am the first and only professionally trained vegan consultant in Ireland, businesses can be assured that the services I offer are the very best that’s available to them. Businesses that work with me can expect to not only serve, but attract more customers as a result by positioning themselves as a leader in this rapidly growing market. I’ve personally worked in 4 different fully vegan restaurants as a chef and in total have over 5 years of experience working within the busy hospitality industry.
We’re currently in the innovation phase of the hospitality industry throughout most of the world. Innovators have the earliest access to this market, will develop a loyal following, have the most time for trial & error and most importantly have the potential to dominate this market.
Have you seen an increase in users or interest in your service in recent years? What trends do you see among your clients or audience?
As vegan hospitality is only an emerging field, I can’t yet comment on the increase or interest in my services over recent years. What I will say though is that restaurants who have worked with colleagues of mine in other countries around the world have seen a return on their investment in just one day. I’m highlighting that for the simple fact that there will be a massive demand for this kind of service in the near future.
The number 1 trend I notice among potential clients is how they fall short on their ability to truly tap into this growing market. Any businesses who do notice the opportunity to capitalise on this market and jump right in themselves have my utmost respect. It is worth mentioning though that if these businesses made some advised adjustments to their menus, as well as investing in adequate training for their staff, they could not only be serving, but attracting a greater number of vegan and plant-curious customers throughout Ireland.
What are your thoughts on the Vegan / Plant Based Market in Ireland?
We’ve all seen the rapid growth of this market here in Ireland, particularly with supermarkets during this pandemic, which is absolutely incredible! We’re seeing new products like mock meats and vegan cheese appearing on the shelves in our local supermarkets almost every day now.
Fortunately for me, it’s the hospitality industry that’s lagging behind. With movement around Dublin still being somewhat restricted and with many people now working from home, it’s businesses doing takeaway that have the most to gain from tapping into this market now. If restaurants are receiving just one question each day about what vegan options they have, I can assure them that there’s 10x as many people who aren’t asking about their vegan options and are just ordering from somewhere else instead.
Where would you like to see it in 5 years?
I have a vision that within 5 years time, the hospitality industry will be back on its feet, will be stronger than ever and businesses that refused to become vegan-friendly will be seriously struggling. There’s a lot of work to be done but I’m excited about the challenge ahead and look forward to bringing about the positive changes that the animals, our planet and humanity desperately needs.