5 Cafes That Ditched Dairy and How it Affected Their Business

Dairy, or more specifically milk, seems to be one of the last ditch items for many people transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. Over the past 50+ years it has become such a norm in society that people still believe that you need to have milk to prevent osteoporosis and ensure you get your calcium intake. Although there has been many studies debunking this and countless more studies looking at plant based alternatives, it still remains an issue.

Even when dairy starts to be removed from your daily life, there is an abundance of dependency on dairy milk in our coffee. This is partially due to the incredibly intelligent marketing from the dairy industry over the years, and yes, I do mean intelligent. To be able to create a normality to daily life for your product is genius. But in this day and age, the increased availability of information to the public is providing the necessary framework for people to make an informed decision.

The availability of delicious plant based alternative milks has begun to change that aspect of our daily life. No longer do you need to get your full cream dairy milk in your coffee to get that rich creamy flavour to your coffee. Alternatives like Rebel Mylk, for that full cream feel and the multitude of other types of milks like Oat, Soy, Rice, Almond, Cashew and the very popular Macadamia milk are being offered at most cafes across Melbourne.

It can be an extraordinarily hard decision for a cafe to ditch dairy milk, even when their convictions tell them they need to. The financial burden and pressure, when half your customers still order dairy milk in their coffee, can be the stop to pursuing the move to a dairy free environment. Although the vegan community is wonderful in supporting this change in business, it can still be daunting.

We wanted to speak with some of the cafes that took the plunge this year and ditched dairy. They will tell you what the reaction was, how they handled it, and what impact it had on their business. We spoke with 5 cafes that have ditched dairy, spanning over 2 years and all with different stories about how they dealt with this transition.

 

Particle Cafe – Stopped Dairy, July 2016

Speaking with Zac – Owner & Operator

Source: @particlecafe Instagram

How long did you question the move to dairy free at your cafe?

We questioned for a week after we turned our whole menu vegan, Zac the barista/owner couldn’t bare steaming milk anymore. We had a lot of family friends and even our coffee supplier telling us to keep the dairy though even though we were uncertain how our business would run we listened to our hearts and removed the dairy off the menu.

What was it that helped you make the final decision?

I guess my wife (Cat) and I (Zac) went vegan a week prior and understanding the truth behind these industries helped us faze out the dairy a lot easier.

How did you inform your customers?

At first I was apologising to many customers and was trying to win them over with soy and coconut milk.

What was the reaction from your customers?

A lot of customers at first handled it badly, due to a lack of understanding and our pitch.

We now have over 6 homemade nut milks and 3 long life plant milk to choose from and we are calm and assertive when explaining to new customers.

What impact did the move have on your business financially and for your customer base?

I believe because we stayed true to what we believe in and have created a business that is helping the planet, animals and customers health who come in everyday, we have surpassed all experiences. We have grown the business by 200% since we first transitioned the cafe to 100% vegan.


Conscious Cravings Co. – Stopped Dairy, February 2018

Speaking with Dee – Owner & Operator

Conscious Cravings Co

How long did you question the move to dairy free at your cafe?

I would have loved to have opened as a dairy free café from the very beginning, however I could see that our customer base were mostly dairy drinkers and saw an opportunity to make a bigger impact by getting these customers in the door and educating them as we built relationships with them.

What was it that helped you make the final decision?

It was always my intention to be dairy free, but the final straw was when I threw out over 20 litres of cows milk. Our dairy sales had gone down and our plant based sales had gone up. It was time!!

How did you inform your customers?

We informed our customers through social media that went viral!! I still see that post being shared around the world even now. We also displayed information at our counter.

What was the reaction from your customers?

A lot of our customers were surprised by the change. Most of them have welcomed it and grown with us, some were just plain angry and never came back.

What impact did the move have on your business financially and for your customer base?

We took a hit financially to begin with but as word spread throughout the vegan community it didn’t take long for our customer base to sky rocket. It has not affected us financially long term and the customers we lost we have gained ten fold.


Union Kiosk – Stopped Dairy, August 2018

Speaking with Tatum – Owner & Operator

Union Kiosk - Vegan Jaffles

How long did you question the move to dairy free at your cafe?

It was always our intention to transition the cafe to vegan. We purchased an already existing Omni cafe (local birds) and started to make changes immediately removing a lot of meat from the menu and making all the cakes vegan, nuttlex instead of butter etc. As time went on we removed more and more animal products until we recently became 100% vegan.

What was it that helped you make the final decision?

Our own values, we are both vegan and are also raising our son to be vegan. It was important to us to make the change to 100% vegan for all aspects of our life.

How did you inform your customers?

Mostly through conversations every day, talking to them about the vegan options and encouraging them to try alternatives with the knowledge that it was good quality and a pretty close match to the animal versions they were used to.

What was the reaction from your customers?

Most of our regulars have been great, they are more than happy to try alternative milks for their coffee and the vegan cheese has never really been an issue. We do have daily conversations with one off coffee orders as people expect you have dairy, this is sometimes a challenge but it has been surprising the amount of people willing to switch to either almond or soy for their coffee when they find out we don’t have dairy.

What impact did the move have on your business financially and for your customer base?

Because we have transitioned slowly we were able to change our customer group gradually too. There are definitely more vegans now, and that is great!


Hunter – Stopped Dairy, October 2018

Speaking with Jaye & Kim – Owner & Operators
Source: @hunter.cafeandstore Instagram

How long did you question the move to dairy free at your cafe?

Hunter cafe has operated for 13 months and recently said farewell to one of its original owners and welcomed Kim as a new business partner.  We are both vegans ourselves which made the choice to ditch dairy an easy one.

What was it that helped you make the final decision?

Within a week of the new partnership we had posted on social media and put up notices in-store informing people that we would phase out dairy within 4 weeks.

Having a likeminded business partner played a large role in the decision to ditch dairy. After we spoke about the possibility of going dairy free, we did some more research into the reality of the dairy industry and from there it was clear that if we wanted to align our business with our personal moral compass, being 100% vegan was the only way to go.

How did you inform your customers?

Once the decision was made, Kim put together a fact/information sheet which we displayed on our front window for the few weeks prior to our final dairy day. We encouraged our guests to read through the poster if they wanted to know the in depth reasons for our change. Outside of that, we posted on social media and used good old fashioned word of mouth.

What was the reaction from your customers?

So far the reaction from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of our regular dairy drinkers have shown tremendous support for our plant based alternatives, especially for our soy/coconut blend. And we’ve been showered with praise and pride which is just unbelievably heartwarming. It’s amazing to see how open our customers are to trying our other options! Taking dairy milks off of our menu has been an incredible way to challenge the norm of the average person’s coffee order. We’re showing our guests that they can enjoy their caffiene fix in a cruelty-free, conscious way, and we are so grateful for the general ‘Okay cool, i’ll try your blend’ consensus that we have received.

What impact did the move have on your business financially and for your customer base?

In regards to finances, this week we have flourished and business has been great. Our customer base is widening and we are seeing more and more new faces as well as our amazing regulars who have been there for us since the start.

So all in all it has been a positive reception thus far.

We are super excited to see what the future will be for hunter.


Kin Corner Store – Stopped Dairy, November 2018

Kin Corner Store

Kin Corner Store has only just ditched dairy from their menu. They celebrated World Vegan Day by removing from the menu.

No doubt a difficult decision to come to but they have been embraced by the vegan community from taking this forward movement.


 

Change can be brought about in many forms, whether you encourage softly or take larger stances. No matter what your current position, remember that there is a community that will support you through decisions that will ultimately impact lives, be that animal or human.

Even if you are slowly transitioning, your small changes matter.

Simon Hall
Simon Hall

Co-Founder

Simon is a passionate vegan, aiming change mindsets through education. Co-Founder of Messy Veggies.

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