Off the Trail

An Open Letter to Ashland Area Restaurants

Below is a letter I wrote to encourage Ashland, Oregon restaurants to serve veg-friendly meals. Some already do (and we’re regulars there) but most restaurants do not. This letter was published in the Ashland Sneak Preview in June 2014.


An Open Letter to Ashland Area Restaurants

Whenever a new restaurant opens in town, I’m eager to check it out. And I always read the menu with one question in mind: Does it offer vegan options?

Yet despite the recent spate of new restaurant openings, I’ve been left disappointed. Among the nearly half-dozen restaurants to have opened in Ashland over the past year, not one has a vegan option listed on the menu, and most have only one vegetarian item.

As a vegan, I find this discouraging — and I’m not alone in feeling this way.

There are a growing number of vegans and vegetarians in the Rogue Valley. I’m a member of the Southern Oregon Vegetarian/Vegan Group — a group with more than 200 members. And we all have networks of family and friends throughout the region who would love to see restaurants provide veg-friendly options.

I’m not suggesting that restaurants need to overhaul their menus. Simply adding one or two options would give us enough reason to try a new restaurant. Even noting that a given appetizer or entrée can be “made vegan” is a step in the right direction.

My wife and I (both vegans) love going out in Ashland, but we find ourselves limited to a group of restaurants that I can count on one hand — and even then, we often have to make special requests.

And yes, most restaurants will drum up something for you on request, but this is rarely a pleasant experience for anyone. Going off menu is more work for the servers and chefs, and it usually results in something that appears, as expected, like it was thrown together last minute.

I understand that Ashland is heavily geared towards tourists. But the fact is that more and more people around the world are cutting back on meat and dairy products — if not for the animals then for their own health. And perhaps even more important for local businesses is the year-round population they count on. The vegans and vegetarians of the Rogue Valley would spend a lot more time (and money) in Ashland restaurants if we felt welcomed and not merely accommodated.

The difference between success and failure in the restaurant industry is all too slim. Not only would veg options bring in more people on a year-round basis, veg food is usually cheaper to produce, which can translate into higher profits.

There is absolutely no downside for restaurants to offer more veg-friendly options; it can only be a win-win. Offering vegan appetizers and entrées won’t discourage the omnivores from patronizing a restaurant — but not offering these options means they are consistently losing a significant part of the community.

So, Ashland restaurants, please consider adding vegan options to your menus, and we’ll be there, year round.

Sincerely,

John Yunker