Monday, 19 September 2011


So, in my last post, I mentioned a course I attended which was not able to obtain a vegan option.  Luckily, it was in the city centre, so I had a couple of options.  Both Wetherspoons and VEGed Out were not options, since I only had half an hour.  This left Burger King or Pret-a-Manger, both of which took about twenty minutes to get to and from.  I had a half hour lunchbreak.

On the first day, I went with Pret.  Every other day, I just ran down to BK, instead.  It was slightly closer, and I normally had time to choke down an entire kid's meal, rather than have to wrap it up for later.

On the last day, yesterday, I went to Pret-a-Manger instead - only to find that they've changed the range sometime this month, and taken their Crunchy Houmous Bloomer - the one vegan option - off the menu.  I didn't have time to talk to the staff at the time, since I had to hustle my ass back to Alpha Tower (I stopped by McDs and got some fries and a coke, so at least I had something to eat), but I did send them an email when I got back.  I'm not able to access the original text, since I sent it through their website, but I expressed my disappointment over their discontinuation of this range, and asked if it would be replaced with another vegan option, or if they had any I'd overlooked.  They can't just not sell any vegan sandwich, can they?  Not when EAT has one for sale? 

Apparently they can.  Here's the response I got;

Hi Kali

Thanks for taking the time to email us. I’m sorry that we’ve taken your favourite Crunchy Humous Wrap off the menu!

We like to keep things interesting at Pret and so from time to time we do vary our menu. Unfortunately, this means that on occasions we have to take someone’s favourite item off. We do however appreciate your feedback, and this will be passed onto our Food Development team. You never know, it could well make it back onto the shelves!

Maybe you could try our Superfood Salad for a vegan option.

Kind Regards

[Name Removed]
Customer Services

Spot that?  Yes, I was talking about a sandwich, not a wrap.  Secondly, I wasn't asking for platitudes; I was asking for a list of vegan options, or for information on whether this would be replaced with another vegan option.  Neither of these queries were addressed, at all.

Thirdly, I didn't describe the crunchy houmous bloomer as "my favourite".  I described it as "the only thing I can eat".  I would strongly prefer that my feedback is passed on in the form of "vegan customers have no options", rather than "someone is upset that you removed her favourite 'inaccurate description'".

Finally; no, I will not try the salad.  Salad is not enough food for an adult to get through the day (or, at least, not me).  Besides, I can make basic salads in my own kitchen, if I want one.  I don't care how good your salad is, it is not good enough to stand up as lunch by itself, as the only option. 

They also got rid of the sea salt crisps, though they might have brought those back.  I think it was simply that they were replacing the packaging, but don't quote me on that.

My response was as follows;

I was referring to the bloomer, not the wrap.  Nor was it "my favourite" menu item - it was just the only one that I could actually eat.  Is there any way my feedback can be take into account for future menu items?  I know for a fact that I was not the only vegan customer of my local store, nor in the country, and I would like to continue to be a customer.

Is a superfood salad really a comprehensive list of your vegan options?  That seems extremely limited.  Are you sure there are no other options?

I admit, my line about "my feedback" is confusing.  I meant what I stated above, that I wanted it to be said as "no vegan options", not "you removed my favourite!", but that really isn't clear from what I actually wrote in the email.  And yeah, I was snippy.  I should eat before emailing people, huh?

On the bright side, I did avoid ranting about being offered just a salad.

Some of you may wish to contact Pret-a-Manger yourselves, to ask about vegan options, or to express disappointment (that was a great sandwich, even for non-vegans).  I won't be able to patronise the store until they sell something I can consume, that's actually a decent lunch.

Update: Pret-a-Manger just sent me an allergen guide for the food. It's out of date. The fifth entry down is the exact sandwich we've just been talking about.

I went to their website myself, and found a new Morrocan Falafel and Humous sandwich, which appears to be vegan, but is not directly stated to be as such.  I'm waiting on a reply from the manager I've been corresponding with to see if that info is (a) up to date, and (b) vegan.

Update the second; The Falafel and Humous sandwich contains creme fraiche, and the up to date allergen information indicates that there are no vegan sandwiches on the menu at all.  I've asked if there's a way for me to be contacted in the event of a vegan option returning to the menu.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Review of Katie's Caterers

(A quick note on the formal style used here - I have posted this on a few review sites, and I also intend to write it up in an email to the company).

I recently attended a training course which was catered by Katie's Catering.  I confirmed my dietary needs as a vegan more than a month in advance.

The training course was six days long, over three weekends.  For the first four days, the "vegan" option sent was a ham salad, which, obviously, I was unable to consume.  Katie's Catering was unavailable to contact by the time we had realised the error on Saturday lunchtime, both weekends, and had already left the same food for Sunday.

The final weekend, they did send an actual vegan meal - the same salad with the ham removed.  This is not a fair amount of food for an adult to get through a seven-hour day on, particularly when everyone else was offered tuna sandwiches, ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, pork pies, salad, and crisps.

There were also several complaints from vegetarian diners, as the food was not clearly labelled, and was mixed together.

There were several, extremely simple, things that Katie's Caterers could have done to make this experience better.  Simply separating and labelling the food would have been an excellent start. 

As for the vegan option itself, a very simple improvement would be to offer one sandwich made up solely of cucumber and salad, items which were all used within the food offered.  Also, a packet of ready salted crisps could have been kept back, rather than mixed with the others, since, when they are all mixed, it is impossible to tell which crisps contain whey powder or other non-vegan ingredients.  This was also a problem for vegetarian diners, as it was impossible to tell which crisps contained rennet or flavouring made from animal ingredients.

An even better choice would have involved one tray being made up of houmous and salad sandwiches, which could have been offered to all diners, and clearly marked as vegan, rather than making a totally separate option.
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