Impossible Burger... Literally
I am a restaurant owner. I am a vegan. I was a restaurant owner for 3 years before turning vegan myself. Sometimes, these two roles that define me are difficult to navigate. My restaurant has a full vegan menu, but we also sell many non-vegan items. When it comes to the non-vegan items, we strive to source locally and at least serve the most consciously sourced animal products, but as a vegan, that can still weigh heavily on me.
You should know that the number one selling item on my restaurant's menu is our "Vault Burger." It is a smoked, local beef burger on a beer infused bun, served with lettuce, onion, tomato, with a variety of toppings that you can add. It was important to me to also feature a vegan option of this burger on our menu. First, we used Sweet Earth burgers which are made with quinoa and veggies. No, it didn't taste like meat, but it was a really good veggie burger. Shortly after, Beyond Meat released their burger and we began buying that. This product was more "realistic (looked like meat)," but that's not what most vegetarian/vegans want in a veggie burger. The Beyond Burger was almost too realistic for the vegans, but also not realistic enough to turn a meat-eater. Then came the Impossible Burger.
The Impossible Burger is the most realistic meat alternative on the market. It is controversial with vegans because, in the initial stages, they did test on animals. Whether or not you can consider it vegan because of the animal testing is highly debated on the internet, but for me, the ends justified the means. I could finally convince meat-eaters to swap out for Impossible meat. We decided to try smoking the Impossible meat, just like our beef burger, and the flavor was uncanny! It tasted identical. There was no weird after-taste, it had 19 grams of protein, zero cholesterol, and even our most distinguished burger lovers could not tell the difference.
As a restaurant owner, the only difference for me was that Impossible Meat is four times more expensive than beef. I'm sure that this turns most restaurant owners off because it means that your profit margin goes way down. However, as a vegan, it means that we can sling vegan burgers out all day to people who are usually "meat and potato" types and they would be eating a healthier option, without harming any animals! Obviously, I loved this. I dropped the price of the Impossible Burger, deciding to take one for the team, so to speak, in order to convince more meat eaters to switch to our new vegan burger. It worked! We started selling Impossible burgers like crazy! And it felt good knowing that my customers who usually ate meat were swapping out for a healthier choice for them, and one with a better impact on the planet.
Imposible Meat sent us loads of advertising swag for the restaurant. We got a huge sticker for our front window, table tents for every single table in the restaurant, cards, website listings, stickers, burger toothpick flags, etc. etc. etc. We were selling almost as many Impossible Burgers as regular meat and I was in hog-heaven, feeling quite pleased with myself for convincing non-vegans to try vegan food, while also pleasing my regular vegan clientele.
Then, Impossible Meat announced their partnership with Red Robin and Burger King. Initially, this did not concern me. They had taken such good care of us up until this point. No other food company had sent us so many free advertising products! Surely, if they were signing on with these fast-food giants, that meant that they were fully stocked. Right? Wrong.
Almost 9 months ago, we were told by one of our food reps that we would not be able to get Impossible Meat for a few weeks. This didn't initially worry me because another food rep was still stocking it. About a week later, that rep ran out as well. Since then, it has been a constant string, leading us along, telling us every week that, "next week," the Impossible meat would be re-stocked. We kept the Impossible ads up, kept their menu placement, and kept explaining to customers that the meat would be back soon! Alas, this was a lie.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant, knowing exactly what you're going to order, only to find out that they don't have it? It's a super shitty feeling, and when customers drive 45 minutes to get something and it's sold out, they tend to be even more upset. Impossible Meat had done such a great job at advertising us, and when you mix that with the fact that we sell our burger for about $5 less than anyone else, we had a lot of people driving from all over to try our Impossible Burger, only to be met with disappointment. No one could tell us when the "meat" would be back in stock, and we didn't know what to do.The staff loses confidence when they have to constantly tell a customer that we are out of something, and the customer loses confidence in the restaurant if, every time they come in, we are out of something. We started getting negative feedback, bad reviews. We, as a restaurant, looked like we didn't have our shit together because Impossible had stopped stocking their product.
Finally, we received a text from one of our food reps. Impossible Meat was back in stock! Thank fucking God. We ordered two cases, just in case they decided to run out again. The following day, the rep messaged us back. He told us that he was very sorry, but apparently, Impossible Meat was only being distributed to chain restaurants right now. Our shipment was going to Red Robin.
I was enraged. We are a small business. I spent hours talking endlessly to customers, trying to convince everyone to try this product. I dropped all the facts about protein, the environment, cholesterol, blah, blah, blah, hacking their fucking product, bringing them more and more money, while I was barely breaking even on the damn burger. And here I was, standing in the middle of my restaurant's kitchen, being told that Impossible was taking care of huge bandwagon chain restaurants and screwing over every small business owner who had supported this business, allowing them to get to where they are today.
Impossible meat has become impossible to stock if you are a small business. Therefore, we have switched to the new Beyond Meat, which is much more realistic, and is more vegan-friendly anyways, since they never tested on animals. Of course, now, Impossible is sending me rebates and coupons to order their product again, but I can't support any business that screws over small business owners. Impossible has damaged my business' reputation, which means that they've also damaged the reputations of thousands of other small businesses who have spent years supporting them, before any chain looked their way. That is a sin that I simply can not forgive.
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