The former manager of NYC-based eatery Gust Organics has blasted rumours that it shut down because of a decision to stop selling meat.
According to Kiki Adami, it was actually a lawsuit which saw the premises shut it doors in 2015 - and not a fall in profits as previously suspected.
“We went vegan and really did see a loss of profit for about six months,” says Adami in an interview on the Vegan Business Talk podcast this week. “Our clientele who kept us afloat pretty much turned their back on us. Yelp reviewers went to town. I was at war with Yelp for two weeks trying to get reviews taken down from people who were just angry and didn’t eat at the restaurant or try the food. I got hate mail from the website. I got personal Facebook messages calling me a narcissist, saying I was like Hitler and forcing my agenda on people.”
The eatery had been popular with a paleo crowd, who stopped eating there once meat was off the menu.
After six months, however, the tide turned. “The vegan army came to our rescue: we got 7,000 Facebook likes in one night. That was the turning point for the business,” says Adami. “After six months, the numbers started going up, our food costs went down around 30 per cent, our Yelp reviews went up two stars and we started to make more money than we had in five years.”
Despite the upturn, Adami was served with a lawsuit in June 2014, from the investors of Gust Organics. The suit alleged that she had ruined the reputation of the business. She says it was this that resulted in the closure of the restaurant in 2015.
“In the end it was finally dubbed a malicious lawsuit,” says Adami, who now runs her consulting company Veganizer and has successfully veganized more than a dozen restaurants in the US.
“I’ve been quiet till now, but I want to be more vocal about it. Gust Organics didn’t fold because we went vegan, it folded because we were hit with a massive lawsuit and the CEO decided to close it. We were under so much stress and pressure from the investors, but we were making more money as a vegan restaurant than as an omnivore restaurant.”
The full interview on Vegan Business Talk is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, iHeart Radio and Tunein and at http://veganbusinessmedia.com/vbt-070-interview-with-kiki-adami-of-veganizer/