I can’t save your vegan business in a week. Give me a year’s notice!

I wish I was making this story up.

On Friday, January 26, 2024, I received this message through my website:

Hello, I am from _. I was seeking ways to connect with Vegan community for my business.<br />
I have been in business for 11 years with my son being a chef too. Unfortunately, my son passed away. I ended alone four years now.<br />
We are strictly vegan chefs for the vegan. I noticed not too many Vegans are supporting any of our restaurants as strong as the western community support their restaurants.<br />
Year after year I have watched amazing vegan restaurants close their doors.<br />
Well I am in danger of closing the doors too, because not enough vegans support us like the carnivore support their western restaurants.

Half an hour later, I replied:

Hi _____,

Thank you for reaching out to me and for being vulnerable and honest about your business. Please know you are not alone; the restaurant business is tough and with inflation and a recession happening (even where I am in Canada), many are not spending as much as they used to on eating out.

I don’t know if there are any vegan Facebook groups in your area or _____________, but that is one way vegans have rallied around vegan businesses. I know that there is one in ____________: [I gave the direct link to a Facebook group in a city close to this business.]

You might benefit from posting there; maybe some members will have loved ones closer to you.
I can see you have done a GoFundMe campaign already. Are you connected with any media in your area? That may also be a way to get some exposure and people in the door.

I have a vegan media list that I’m happy to give you if you sign up to my or hire me for an hour to write a news release & podcast pitch, but the issue is the media on the list are all around the world and you need local people coming in the door.

I don’t have any other magic tricks up my sleeve, but I can gift you an e-copy of my book, Vegan Marketing Success Stories, here. You can also sign up to my monthly newsletter at the link below (in my signature) if you’d like news on what other vegan companies are doing.

I’ll do a post on my social media too. All the best _____, and let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.


The following Wednesday, January 31, the owner replied as follows:

Hi, Ms. Nomoto, WOW, if only I had this type of writing so eloquent.

I always wanted to write a book, too several but procrastinated because I know I don’t have the [time.]


I talked about my ghostwriting service. I still did not know the business was near closing. Immediately after, I received this message:

Dear cherished customers,<br />
With a heavy heart, we announce the permanent closure of our beloved ___ here in ___ after 11 wonderful years.</p>
<p>Your unwavering loyalty and support have meant the world to us, and for that, I extend my deepest gratitude. However, we find ourselves in a dire situation and must raise an enormous amount by 3pm today, or we'll have no choice but to turn in our keys.</p>
<p>If you can lend a helping hand or need more information, please text __________. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support.

I responded:

This is a great message, however if you need to raise an amount to save the business by a certain date (and, how much?), that should be the first thing you say. You never know if there is a wealthy benefactor watching.

Then explain if you cannot raise it, you would turn in your keys and close your doors. Then thank your customers.


The business owner asked:

How would I write this? I am not too good with the grammar and where would I fit it?<br />
Would you be able to share?

The business owner seemed more concerned that their grammar might not be correct, and was interested in me blasting it to my network despite the fact I live nowhere near them. I replied to ask how much exactly they needed to save the business, with:

Many businesses have put out GoFundMe (or other crowdfunding) campaigns and asked for exactly how much they need to keep doors open. It also helps people see how far you are in reaching your goal.

I won’t share your message with my network, as I’m in Canada and no one here will likely help you. I’m sorry, I’m just being honest. Your message is best shared with people in your area who will actually dine or who are a part of your local community.


Two and half hours later, I was browsing Instagram and found they had already posted the original message. So I replied with:

I saw you already saw you posted your message on Instagram and it’s now past 3pm so I’m unclear as to whether you’ve handed over the keys or not and closed.

I am sorry I didn’t help share your message, but I didn’t have the GoFundMe link and honestly I am not sure what difference I would have made in your final hours.


And then got this email message:

Not yet but it looks like I will turning in on Friday. I just messaged a kitchen right here in _________. </p>
<p>The other place was too much and there is nothing ready. The guy lives in the woods by a beautiful lake. It was a huge miss and my friend says that it is job security. I don’t think it was for me. My passion is for me to continue to cook.

A few things became clear to me within this six-day exchange:

  • The business owner assumed only vegans would support the business and hoped that vegans (even folks like me not living in the same city) would save the business because it was vegan.
  • The owner posted on social media that the business was in danger of closing and that it needed “an enormous amount” by 3pm, or else it would be forced to close its doors.
  • The owner had another opportunity to work in or open another space, but it wasn’t yet ready and might not be the right fit anyway. They love to cook, but perhaps not own another restaurant business.

Even if this person gave me a month’s notice before the business closure, I don’t think I could have helped much unless they had a big budget to do digital ads. On social media, it looked like they got some media coverage about them closing on Monday January 29. They shared a screenshot of their GoFundMe campaign that same day, which had raised close to $700 out of a $3500 goal.

If this business had contacted me in early January 2023 to ask me for a marketing plan to save the business, here’s what I would have suggested:


1. Sidewalk signs & lights

Especially if this place was not in a high traffic area, a sidewalk sign is a MUST for people to even know you exist.

I don’t think this business was open in the evening, but if it was, it should consider a light-up sign of the business name. I know those can be expensive, so at the very least, string up some lights around the sign that carries the name of the business. Again, potential customers must know you exist.

The business was located near a beach, so even if it was not directly on the beach, it should have gotten some foot traffic. I know it’s hard to park at beaches, so even car traffic should have seen it.


2. Hire a social media manager

I don’t mean a full-time manager, although that would be ideal for any restaurant business. It could be a young relative or a part-time marketing student at a local college who could come in and spend a few hours taking photos/videos of all the dishes. Doing this on an off-day twice a month could provide plenty of content.

The main thing missing from this business’s social accounts was better photos and videos. There were no videos shared, and many of the photos shared of the food or venue were blurry. Some photos were even not rotated to be straight. There also needed to be more photos of the owner/chef. People want to support when they know who’s behind the business, especially who’s making their food with love.

When you run a food business, it’s mandatory to have clear photos with a view either overhead or at an angle. If the food is stacked high (e.g. a stack of pancakes or a loaded sandwich), a straight-on photo would work as well. Good photos and videos encourage customers to come in to try the food and take content of their own too. Machino Donuts in Toronto has some of the best shots of food and faces. It’s a simple formula.

The bios for the business on social media said “Vegan Vegetarian Café” which is really confusing. If they serve all vegan food, I would just choose “vegan” and then expect that most of your customers will not be vegan. This is a good thing. We want more omnivores to taste really good vegan food. The vegans will naturally come.

Digital ads wouldn’t be necessary if there was content being put up daily and consistently, and the manager also did a follow strategy by following accounts of other businesses, organizations, or influencers also in the area. But if they had a budget to boost a contest or special event, that’d be nice.

The business had no website. This isn’t a huge problem for a restaurant, but the downside is they can’t get natural SEO just with social media. So again, I’d get a part-time marketer to put up a simple one-page website with all the details of the place: menu, founder story, hours of operation, location, social media links, and additional services (i.e. catering). Keywords vegan, vegetarian, plant-based and so on should be on there.


3. Run contests

Part of the social media manager’s job would be to hold a monthly contest for either a gift card or free item (entrée, dessert, etc.).

Instead of doing the usual “like, comment, share” type of rules, I would incorporate some trivia. One word in the business’s name is a Biblical reference, so I would go Old Testament and ask really simple trivia that asks questions about the book of Genesis. This would show a fun side of the business that would look different from what all the other restaurants are doing online.

If you want new customers, you need to entice them with your food. Free food gets everyone, every time.


4. Do a media outreach campaign

The media needs to know about this business if they don’t already. It’s been around for 11 years, so it’s a staple in the community.

The business should plan what they are doing to celebrate its anniversary. It doesn’t need to be on the exact date the business opened. It could be a buffet-style, meet-the-community kind of event where they open on a usual day off to say “hey, we’re here and we just celebrated another year in business. Learn about us.”

This should get media attention, but even if some media don’t show up, this is a great chance for people to meet and chat with the owner. Again, face time will get more people wanting to support you. It doesn’t matter if they’re not vegan. Media might ask for a phone or video interview if they can’t come in person.

When the owner contacted me, they mentioned the death of their son, who was a part of the business. Having a framed photo of him in the restaurant and continuing to talk about him would continue his legacy and gives another reason the community should support this business.


5. Send postcards or flyers to the neighbourhood’s zip code

This is a great way to make people in the ‘hood aware that you’re there if they don’t already know. In Canada, you can pay to have cards/flyers distributed to certain zip codes. USPS has a program that does this, and there are others that do it too.

If there’s no budget for this, pay a student to create a flyer, have it printed, and go around the ‘hood sticking it in people’s mailboxes.

It can have a special discount code for people who live in the hood too.


That’s the strategy I would have put together for this business if I had a year to save it. There is more that could be done, of course, but if the business is struggling, you have to be aware of their budget limitations.

Need to take marketing off your plate so you can focus on other aspects of your business? Read more about my services here and contact me if you’re ready to begin!

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