‘If You Don’t Like It I’ll Eat my Hat’: Understanding Vegetarianism In Vegetarian Cafes
In recent years, numerous dedicated vegetarian cafes have opened alongside a reported increasing uptake in the diet. With this increased uptake, however, has come a greater flexibility with which the term ‘vegetarian’ is applied. This research asks how vegetarian cafes navigate such complexities of the diet, and how they communicate their version of vegetarianism to both meat-eating and vegetarian customers. Utilising evidence obtained through face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with cafe owners, managers and head-chefs, and building upon theories of food choice, identity and communication, the study explores the realities of running a vegetarian business within this diverse market. It uncovers multiple tensions between the needs of vegetarian and meat-eating customers, as well as between the practicalities of running a business and upholding vegetarian principles. Furthermore, it finds that the cafe itself is an important site of identity and community building, and the cafe’s ability to inspire changing eating habits is discussed accordingly. The research and debates presented in this dissertation aim to enhance understandings of contemporary vegetarianism, its links with identity, and its position as an alternative diet.