Following the Best Restaurant of the Month award to Pure Veggie House. This is the inaugural Worst Restaurant of the Month award. It is regrettable having to write articles as critical as this one. Some restaurants though refuse to amend their ways when given serious concerns to address. Thus there is little choice than to highlight these concerns until the restaurants in question improve their standards. The Worst Restaurant of the Month award will be for restaurants that treat the vegetarianism of their customers with contempt rather than respect. Here’s an explanation of the inaugural ‘winner’.
The March 2016 recipient of the Worst Restaurant of the Month award is InnoVeggie in North Point. They have been given numerous opportunities to address the highlighted pitfalls. This goes back to July 2015 when they were first engaged regarding concerns. Since then they have been approached and contacted numerous times. They have been given online fact sheets explaining the pitfalls they have been found needing to address. They have been given suggestions of available vegetarian products that would mitigate the highlighted concerns. It is with a heavy heart to report that the response of InnoVeggie has been abysmal.
Here are the concerns:-
1) Devondale non vegetarian mozzarella cheese (made with slaughtered animal rennet).
To again spell out the concern re lacto cheese being non vegetarian; It is not milk that renders cheese non vegetarian. It is the use of slaughtered animal rennet during manufacture that renders many lacto cheeses non vegetarian.
InnoVeggie use cheese in pizza and cheese cake. The waitress in InnoVeggie has shown the packaging of the brand they use. InnoVeggie use Devondale mozzarella cheese. A quick look on the Devondale website. The first five of the cheeses they have listed clearly state:-
- Suitable for vegetarians
As an example this is a link to Devondale’s Colby Cheese page.
The sixth cheese Devondale list is their Mozzarella. For their Mozzarella there is no declaration of vegetarian suitability. Devondale are thus transparent that their mozzarella cheese is not vegetarian.
A purportedly vegetarian restaurant knowingly and continually feeding people non vegetarian food is disgraceful. That on its own is enough to qualify as Worst Restaurant of the Month. There’s some other stuff to throw in as well.
2) Misleading customers re dishes containing egg
InnoVeggie don’t purport to be an egg free restaurant. This thus isn’t a criticism of them that they use eggs. The criticism is their history of misleading customers that their mock meat dishes are egg free.
The icons guide on InnoVeggie’s menu
It began on a visit to InnoVeggie in a group of three on 28 July 2015:-
* Some items on the menu were marked with a symbol indicating that the dish contains egg
* Other items on the menu were not marked with the egg symbol. The logical conclusion to draw is that the dishes without the egg symbol do not contain egg
* Some of the dishes without the egg symbol contain mock meat
* On asking restaurant staff if the mock meat contained egg the answer was given that all of the mock meat contains egg. That is a key point. The update was all of their mock meat contains egg
* This is despite some of the mock meat dishes on the menu being marked in a manner indicating that the mock meat & everything else in the dish does not contain egg
Where’s the egg icon on these mock meat dishes?
After numerous requests to InnoVeggie to tackle this issue Tina at InnoVeggie PR eventually replied:-
“Our president and operation team have already reviewed the menu and made adjustment, so it is now correctly labelled.”
No egg icons on these mock meat dishes?
This appears to be questionable. On a visit to specifically examine the InnoVeggie menu in the last 24 hours there are still numerous mock meat dishes marked as not containing egg. InnoVeggie have given no indication that they have started to use egg free mock meat. Indeed in the dialogue with Tina and previously Chingmy at InnoVeggie this was their three most telling updates:-
* “Our team is very new to vegetarian concept”
So what? If anything no management history of vegetarianism should mean a greater level of vegetarian rigour pre going to market. Lack of vegetarianism in the restaurant leadership team doesn’t justify knowingly continuing to ignore issues highlighted over a period of eight months.
* “Most of our customers are actually meat lovers”
Again so what? Does that justify ignoring the concerns of customers who are vegetarian?
* “Our operation team is taking these concerns into consideration but it really takes time for them to change, especially involving suppliers, costs, ingredients combination, cooking process, etc”
Again this seems a poor argument. Using factors such as cost control as a justification to continually mislead customers on an going and extended time frame is shallow.
Duping someone to eat egg who would otherwise avoid egg isn’t just a threat to someone’s philosophical views on egg consumption. This web link states egg allergy can cause skin rashes, hives, nasal congestion, and vomiting or other digestive problems. Rarely, egg allergy can cause anaphylaxis — a life-threatening reaction.
3) Ice cream not verified as vegetarian
InnoVeggie’s ice cream counter
InnoVeggie have big signs at their ice cream counter proclaiming that they retail Glacio ice cream. Like cheese it is not the use of milk that renders ice cream non vegetarian. The pitfalls for lacto vegetarians re ice cream are ingredients such as:-
* gelatin (e.g. from pig, cow,)
* tallow (from cow or sheep)
A quick look this time at the Glacio website and clearly they use whey in some of their products. The info seems unavailable on their website on specifically whether or not Glacio ice cream is vegetarian friendly. It feels like doing InnoVeggie’s job for them in contacting a manufacturer of InnoVeggie’s supplies to ask about ingredients used. However due to the inaction from InnoVeggie… Glacio in Belgium have been emailed six times since 22nd December asking about the vegetarianism of their ice cream. This was using the contact email id listed on the Glacio website. Glacio have yet to reply. Draw your own conclusion from that.
The bottom line is this; InnoVeggie should have taken the steps to verify the vegetarianism of all the produce they use for food and drink retail. That includes cheese, ice cream and anything that else they sell that goes into people’s mouths. InnoVeggie should also be unfailingly rigorous on giving customers 100% accurate info re ingredients.
4) InnoVeggie were given a final opportunity to redeem themselves before being designated Worst Restaurant of the Month. They were sent the following on Friday 25th March. That is almost eight full months after they were first requested to address these concerns. This is another of the messages to which they have so far declined to reply:-
Is there any update please on any of these:-
a) Inno Veggie selling cheese made with slaughtered animal rennet?
b) Inno Veggie selling ice cream that may well be non vegetarian. Glacio’s website makes it clear they use whey in at least some of their products
c) Inno Veggie mislabelling items on the menu so that all of the mock meat dishes are marked to make it clear they contain egg
InnoVeggie obviously lack regard for these three points. The question has to be what other blunders are they committing that remain so far uncovered? InnoVeggie obviously can’t be trusted by any of vegetarians (including vegans), allergy sufferers nor anyone avoiding eggs. Can InnoVeggie be trusted regarding their menu marking of dishes that do / don’t contain five pungent root vegetables (garlic, leek, onion, shallot and spring onion?) Anyone else who should be afraid to risk eating here?
The HK veg Worst Restaurant of the Month award for March 2016 is a call to InnoVeggie to demonstrably start taking the vegetarianism of their clients seriously.
Note: All web pages linked to from this article are tested as working at the time of publication of the article. Over the course of time content at these linked web pages inevitably will change.