A vegan restaurant has come under fire for reopening as a new eatery and no longer being ‘exclusively vegan‘, stating being fully plant-based isn’t ‘sustainable’.
The Mango Tree – a cafe and restaurant located in Taunton, England – founded itself on its ‘care for [the] environment, [its] crew, [its] customers and all lives on Earth’.
However, the eatery has since faced backlash for revealing that it’s set to close and reopen later in the year under a new name with ‘new menu options’ that ‘won’t be exclusively vegan’.
In an update posted to Facebook on 27 August, 2022, The Mango Tree team revealed the restaurant would be closing on Saturday, 3 September.
While it reassured customers it would reopen in the ‘same location’ with the ‘same team’ and including ‘some of [its] renowned plant based dishes’, its hint at ‘exciting new menu options’ and a ‘brand new vibe’ has caused outrage after the restaurant admitted in the comments the new restaurant’s menu would no longer be solely plant-based.
The revelation has been met with fierce backlash from some customers, with one branding The Mango Tree ‘unethical’.
“This is a massive shame. It’s been amazing to have a 100% vegan restaurant in Taunton. Veganism isn’t a business venture. It’s an ethical philosophy that does the best for the animals, the planet, and public health.
“Introducing animal products to a menu in a town that has so many other restaurants makes no sense. It immediately increases the environmental footprint. It means that the restaurant immediately starts to support animals going through hell again,” another said.
The Mango Tree responded to complaints by thanking customers for ‘taking the time to comment’ and for their previous ‘support’ but by highlighting how ‘increasingly tough’ the hospitality industry has become to survive in as a fully plant-based establishment.
“Continuing as a purely vegan restaurant has not been sustainable for a considerable amount of time as there are simply not enough customers supporting us in our current format.
“The new restaurant will allow us to protect the jobs of our wonderful team, and will allow us to continue offering Taunton delicious, freshly cooked vegan meals that would be otherwise have disappeared,” it continued.
One customer probed further, pointing out that ‘surely all restaurants are suffering in the current climate’ and not just vegan restaurants.
“For instance, there’s a pub in Wales who transitioned from serving animal products to being 100% vegan, and they have people travelling from across the country, and are booked up for weeks,” they wrote.
However, The Mango Tree claimed ‘despite lots of marketing, many special offers, offering dine in and takeaway, introducing the use of home delivery partners, and working incredibly hard to be as efficient as possible, not enough of the local population used us regularly enough to make continuing in the current format sustainable’.
The restaurant explained it was left with only two options. To rebrand and introduce non-vegan items to the menu or ‘close permanently’.
When questioned over its ethics, it said: “Ethics extend to the jobs and welfare of our wonderful team, to whom we owe a great deal, and another chance.
“[…] We must move on with positivity and are determined to do so.”
A spokesperson for Mango Tree Taunton told LADbible: “The Mango Tree Restaurant on Lower Middle Street in Taunton opened its doors in 2019 and has since then been serving the local community with plant-based dishes using fresh ingredients from local producers and suppliers. Like most restaurants, Covid had a big impact, with the team needing to switch to takeaways and home deliveries rather than being able to welcome diners through the door.
“Since restrictions have lifted, it has taken people a while to build back confidence in eating out, and having a menu limited to vegan dishes means that Mango Tree in its current format is less appealing to the majority of the Taunton community than other restaurants, particularly as over the last few years there has been an increase in vegan dishes being offered, on what were before more standard menus. Hospitality continues to be tough, but the current team are determined to continue doing what they love.
“Whilst the restaurant is closed over the next month, renovations will be taking place and when the premises re-opens later in the autumn there will be a new restaurant name, and a new and evolving menu featuring some of the Mango Tree customer favourite dishes alongside lots of new additions.
Restaurant Manager Erik said: “We are looking forward to being able to continue serving the Taunton Community with fresh and exciting dishes, alongside a brand new restaurant vibe. Here on Lower Middle Street, we love being part of the busy Taunton Independent Quarter and are delighted that we’re staying in the same location with the same restaurant team. We can’t wait to open our doors again and show customers what we have been planning.”