GustOrganics, the only certified organic restaurant in New York City, recently made a very big decision to switch its menu from a meat-focused one to 100% plant-based.
And this has caused a tremendous uproar.
For more than five years, GustOrganics had attracted a loyal customer base that was accustomed to eating meat and chicken dishes, so eliminating all of these items and carrying nothing but vegan food carried serious financial risks for the restaurant.
What Kiki Adams, who now runs GustOrganics with her husband Paul Chang Villanueva, prepared for were some lean times in this transition period, but what she didn’t expect was the amount of hate that she would receive.
“The initial response was awful on all fronts,” she told me via e-mail.
“We were getting bashed on social media, being called ‘unethical’. I got texts from people telling me that they hoped I went out of business. A group of six women came in and demanded that we serve them lemon chicken, and when we wouldn’t serve them this dish, they harassed our server so badly that he cried and walked out on his shift. The Reddit community got a hold of this and tore us apart.”
Yet, as the hate finally died down, love and support came pouring in.
“As the word spread, people have been coming in from places as far as California and Berlin to support us. One Canadian woman even told us that she would pay for 20 veggie burgers for other people to eat, so she could help us out. The positive response outweighs the negative by two-fold at this point.
“We are getting emails from all over the world with individuals telling us that as soon as they visit NYC, GustOrganics will be the first place that they will stop. People are coming in and asking to shake my hand and to thank me. This happens on a daily basis. Our servers went from skeptics to totally proud of what we have done. My plan is finally beginning to work,” said Kiki Adami.
First, I believe that making this change was a very smart business decision. GustOrganics had lost its identity, and to be New York City’s only certified organic vegan restaurant is very interesting and compelling.
Plus, the upper part of the West Village badly needed an organic vegan restaurant with waiter service. So, I think they can meet a real market need with this new approach.
Second, whether GustOrganics is vegan, raw, paleo, farm-to-table, vegetarian, or some type of ethnic food, I just want it to succeed.
The restaurant business is brutally tough, and running an organic one is even harder. And it would be a real shame for a restaurant that took the time to get its organic certification to go out of business.
The world needs more organic options, not fewer ones.
Lastly, the amount of passion (hate) around food never ceases to amaze me.
When my friend Jordan Younger, formerly known as the Blonde Vegan, recently decided to stop being a vegan and eat meat again, she got death threats.
And now what happened with GustOrganics is just another reminder of one simple truth.
When it comes to what we put in our bodies, there is no shortage of opinions — or controversy.
(Below are some pictures of the new vegan items at GustOrganics.)