On Sunday 15th March, the Dutch government closed down all physical restaurants until at least 6th April. Then on 23rd March further restrictions were announced including a ban on public gatherings until 1st June and possible fines for groups of more than 3 non-family members ignoring these rules.
Even before these changes, there was concern within the Dutch hospitality industry about how the pandemic and people staying home would affect businesses. Amsterdam has a growing vegan scene with new vegan eateries opening almost every month. Many are small businesses whose initial funding came through loans, family investment or crowdfunding. These are of course the type of business most at risk from any period of reduced or zero income.
Some Dutch vegan restaurants and stores have temporarily closed down. Italian owned H/eart.h had already chosen to close before the first regulations were announced. Deer Mama Mylk and Vegan Burger bar initially planned to stay open for take-out and delivery but soon changed their minds.
“It’s time…” posted Laura from Deer Mama on their Facebook and Instagram pages. “I no longer feel comfortable sending our team to work“, after which she urged everybody to stay home and looked forward to seeing them when things go back to normal.
But the majority of places have stayed open offering either take out or delivery. Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Thuisbezorgd bikes can be seen all over the city, with many are delivering vegan meals. Most restaurants were already set up for delivery, but others like Korean newcomer De Patchka took a few days to get deliveries in place.
In some cases, restaurants have joined together. Amsterdam West-based Plant Based Sushi and the East’s Mr & Mrs Watson stock and deliver specific items from each other’s restaurants menus. Not only does this increase the selections available per restaurant but it also increases the geographical areas covered.
Customers in the east can buy the plant-based Bento box, whilst those in the east have access to the Watson Vegan Cheese Wheel. Other restaurants are getting imaginative to attract customers. Vegan Junk Food Bar are offering specially branded toilet paper with their deliveries whilst other places give away juice shots or a complimentary slice of cake.
It’s not just restaurants making changes. Vegan chef and book author Alexander Gershberg usually runs regular events including in-restaurant residencies and monthly cooking classes. The next scheduled class of 29th March is still going ahead but now as an online class rather than a physical event as originally planned. Public cooking demonstrations and residencies are now canceled, but Alexander is also now offering private online consultations for those who wish to use food to boost their immune systems.
Vegan stores are also making changes. Some have temporarily closed, but others remain open though often with reduced hours.
Plastic-free store Little Plant Pantry introduced a shopping hour for elderly and vulnerable customers before any of the supermarkets and provide hand-sanitizer or soap and water at the door. Other stores including vegan cheese specialist Willicroft have closed their physical shop but instead switched to delivery only
Companies offering prepackaged meals for reheating at home are also promoting their services during these times when not everyone can or wants to go out to shop.
Vegan Masters offer ready-to-heat (or just eat) convenience foods prepared and designed by local chefs. Their delivery times have changed meaning they can now deliver anywhere in the Netherlands within 24 hours or in Amsterdam in 45 minutes.
All of the vegan businesses have massively increased their presence on social media. Some places are now posting updates and news items several times a day. They are suddenly much more active in Facebook groups and on Instagram.
Whatever happens next, we hope to see as many of Amsterdam’s vegan businesses as possible still able to open and be successful in the future.