In 2018, Sam Pearson, owner and manager of the Vegan Sandwich Co was running a “really tiny food blog” while working 9-5 in his office job and increasingly realised that his passion for food was more than just a hobby.
As a vegan and life-long sandwich lover, the idea for the Vegan Sandwich Co was borne out of the universally relatable hunt for a decent lunch option. He explained this thought process: “If I’m looking for a good vegan sandwich, I bet there are other people who are too.” He started seriously planning towards the end of 2018 determined that if he “worked on it, I could find a way that food could actually be my job.”
Sam’s first outing with the stall was at the Stoneybatter Festival where he debuted his famous and bestselling Chick*n Fillet roll. There was a rain-soaked queue for the stall and within hours of the market opening, they were completely sold out of food!
Sam and the team knew they were onto a winner and spent the rest of the year happily touring markets and festivals, which was still the plan for 2020 until March when overnight, like many businesses and organisations who work in the live events sector, they woke to realise their “whole business was gone” and reached a very big fork in the road that made him think “either this is the end, or we’ll just give something else to go.”
Sam mused that they “may as well try and do deliveries and see how it goes. We did deliveries from our production kitchen in Smithfield. On our first day, our first weekend, we made more money than we would make in two weeks of market deliveries. So, again, it was another kind of realisation for me that if more people could get our food, I think more people would probably buy it. So we continued to work on that delivery business over the summer.
“I saw a listing for the shop on Queen Street. I had never even really thought of having a shop. I never thought it would be possible. But in a world where rents are a little bit lower now, and there’s a little bit less competition for commercial spaces, the tenants have a bit more power in the relationship. I thought ‘You know what, there’s no harm in me going and have a look’. And I walked in and was like ‘Yep, It feels like it could be our home’. And I put a proposal together, they accepted and here we are.”
World Vegan Day is annually celebrated on November 1 and was established in 1994 by the Chair of The Vegan Society in the United Kingdom, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the organisation and the coining of the terms “vegan” and “veganism”.
Fun bonus Halloweeny fact: The Vegan Society decided on November 1 because they “liked the idea of this date coinciding with Samhain/Halloween and the Day of the Dead – traditional times for feasting and celebration, both apt and auspicious.”
A distinct element of the Vegan Sandwich Co’s offering is that the menu is completely vegan. I was keen to know about Sam’s journey to veganism and his business decision to prioritise a plant-based offering?
“I think, to be a part of the shift towards veganism is like a really important part of this business. Some people shy away from veganism as a concept in the business world because they think it will scare consumers away. But for me, I think it’s authentic because I practice what I preach – I am vegan. I eat our food every day. And I would be totally happy eating our food every day until the end.
“I think that my role in the world with vegan activism is quite a soft one. But it’s quite an important one as well, in that, if you show people that they can have just as delicious food, without having an impact on animals and the environment, they realise that maybe they could make that change. And whether it’s a change, like a day a week or cutting out all products altogether, to see people start to click in their brain that yes, actually vegan food can be delicious is what keeps me going.”
So what’s next for Vegan Sandwich Co? Sam explains, “When I went vegan, the last meat meal I ever had was Christmas dinner because I thought it was one meal that I could maybe never have again. And then I quickly realised that, actually, yes, you can have an incredible vegan Christmas dinner without the animal products in it. So, this year is we are doing full service, Christmas dinner menu.
“People will be able to preorder their Christmas dinner from a turkey to roast potatoes to roast vegetables to the gravy as part of a big kit and you just bang it in the oven and then you have a full vegan Christmas dinner on your table without any of the work!
“We’re doing Halloween deliveries this week. And then we’re shifting our focus to Christmas next week. So pre-orders will be open from the start of November anyway. Our big bang for the next couple of months is that we’re taking over vegan Christmas dinner.”
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