Frequently Asked Questions
We have put ourselves in your shoes and preempted questions that you may have. However, if you cannot find answers below to your questions, contact us! We are more than happy to listen.
We may make changes to the below from time to time, so make sure you visit this page frequently to find out about the latest development!
1. Where does the idea of SocialVegan come from?
I follow a vegan diet and I experience first-hand the difficulties faced by my fellow vegan eater friends in Hong Kong - lack of dining options, stress of going to non-vegan restaurants, guilt of objecting to non-vegan restaurant suggestions by your friends, and many others.
Our mission is to help vegan eaters enjoy their social life while staying true to their diet, whether or not for religious, animal rights, environmental, health or other reasons. If you follow a vegan diet, you should not be judged for your choice of diet, and you should not be excluded from the social scene just because of your dietary preference. There is nothing to be ashamed of and you should not feel guilty for having to order something different from the rest of your friends. It is just like you choosing Lunch Set A vs someone choosing Lunch Set B. We are trying here to ensure that Lunch Set A actually exists.
We also hope that by including vegan options in more menus, this can raise awareness of vegan diet and make it easier for people to switch over if they so wish. No one is forcing a diet on anyone but everyone should at least be given the option.
If you follow a vegan diet like myself, you may have the same observation about the dining scene in Hong Kong:
Most eateries in Hong Kong do not offer vegan options and even for the very few that do, there is no clear indication on the menu which items are vegan. A lot of menu items contain dairy products and eggs even though the name of the dish looks like it is vegan.
Most eateries in Hong Kong do not have adequate understanding as to what vegan diet means.
Most people in Hong Kong go out to eat in non-vegetarian/non-vegan eateries and it is quite unlikely that a big group gathering will be hosted at a vegan restaurant.
This means that if you choose to adopt a vegan diet at all times or at least most of the times (as a vegan/flexitarian/someone with a plant-based diet, etc. whatever the label is. Let’s not get into the nitty-gritty details of vegan vocabulary!), you will likely face the below difficulties:
You may get rejected outright if you try to ask about vegan options in advance by calling or checking with the staff at the entrance of the eateries. If you are with a group of friends or colleagues when you are at the entrance of the eateries, chances are you feel really guilty of holding everyone up and shaking your head to nine consecutive suggestions of non-vegan items.
You may have to eat noodles in fish or meat broth or navigate your way in a bowl of fried rice with eggs while trying not to look concerned because you do not want to upset other people.
You may be slightly (or very) stressed when you say yes to gatherings without first knowing where the group is going and scrutinising the menu in advance.
You may have to pay an outrageous price for a plain dull plate of pasta with plain tomato sauce that comes straight from the can.
You may have to explain to an eatery ten times your dietary requirements before they stop asking if you would like pork dumplings or seafood risotto.
You may still be turned down even if you ask for just a plain bowl of rice and a plate of stir fry vegetables because the staff at the restaurant do not know what to do with your order unless you are ordering a dish listed on the menu. This happens frequently during lunch hour as a lot of restaurants only offer lunch set options, which normally do not include vegan options.
SocialVegan is here to help. We want you to enjoy your social time just like everyone else. We want to take that burden off you, of having to call up restaurants and explaining your dietary requirements again and again. Simply put, we want to create a more vegan-friendly dining scene in Hong Kong so that everyone can be happy.
2. What does a vegan diet mean in the eyes of SocialVegan?
There are many different labels out there. For the sake of simplicity, let’s make the definition clear first. Vegan items in the eyes of SocialVegan means no animal products used in the menu item. This means no meat, no seafood, no dairy (i.e. no milk and cheese and butter and the like), no eggs, no honey, no other animal-derived ingredients. We use the term "vegan eaters" to avoid confusion with other lifestyle aspects of veganism.
3. What is the vegan diet scene like in Hong Kong?
We have not been able to locate any specific data on the population of people adopting a vegan diet in Hong Kong. From published sources (http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2117326/inside-hong-kongs-growing-appetite-veganism), the recent SCMP post in October 2017 stated that in the United States, six per cent of the population, or roughly 20 million people, now identify as vegan. The figure represents a 500 per cent surge since 2014, according to a report by research company Global Data. In the five years from 2015 to 2020, China’s vegan market is expected to rise by more than 17 per cent – marking the fastest growth rate internationally in that period and offering proof the trend has filtered into the region in recent years. According to Bloomberg, Hong Kong had close to 250 vegetarian restaurants in October 2017 compared with just 130 in 2013. Another SCMP article (http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health-beauty/article/2126810/how-vegan-diet-went-fringe-mainstream-and-its-advocates-hong) quoted Stevie Go, a volunteer with the Hong Kong Vegan Association, stating that the number of all-vegan restaurants in Hong Kong rose from 11 to 21 between September 2015 and September 2016. He said that there appeared to be 28 such restaurants in the city at that time, and that excludes temple restaurants.
This is an encouraging trend. With more and more vegans in our society, awareness for vegan diet is on the rise and this means that more and more vegans can benefit from our SocialVegan community.
4. What is the target market of SocialVegan?
For eateries, we are targeting all big and small eateries that Hongkongers typically go to. Whether it is a high-end or a budget eatery, a vegan eater should be able to have a good time there, just like everyone else. An eatery which has obtained our SocialVegan label is our partner in improving the quality of life of vegan eaters in Hong Kong.
For vegan eaters, we are targeting those who want to stay true to their diet but still want to enjoy the company of their family, friends and colleagues. They do not want to appear fussy or feel guilty about their diet choice. They may not even be picky about what particular dish they eat as long as they can fill up their tummy, though deliciousness will be a bonus.
We are not, however, targeting strict vegans who require that every single ingredient be screened by us and that there is strictly no animal product being used on the entire premise. We are only here to help adding vegan options by design in the menu. We do not inspect each and every kitchen of our eatery partners to study the nutrition label of each and every ingredient. We make it clear to all our eatery partners what a vegan diet is and the criteria for obtaining our SocialVegan label. We put our faith in them to ensure that our guidelines are adhered to. If you have an allergy problem or really strict dietary requirements due to any reason, we suggest that you check with the eatery directly to ensure that your dietary requirements can be accommodated.
5. What is your value-add for the eateries?
Although there are more and more vegan and vegan-friendly eateries in Hong Kong, the majority of eateries in Hong Kong still do not offer vegan options. This does not mean that they are not willing to consider but this is more likely due to a lack of awareness. If an eatery wishes to obtain the SocialVegan label, all you have to do is to read through this page and approach us with either the gathered information or even just to shoot us a bunch of questions that you have and we will help you get through the process. Remember, including vegan options is not difficult. Having the heart and intention is all it takes. There may even be no need to adjust your ingredient list. You may have already included enough vegan items on your menu, or some simple adjustment of your menu may already do the trick. Once you obtained our SocialVegan label, we will then feature your eatery on our website (http://www.socialveganhk.com), our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/socialveganhk) and our Instagram page (http://www.instagram.com/socialveganhk/) so that vegan eaters can easily identify eateries that offer vegan options. We get more choices of eateries and you get more customers. Win-win!
6. What is your value-add for customers who want to have vegan options?
We want vegan eaters to be able to go to a restaurant, and then sit back and enjoy. We want there to be no stress that there will be no vegan options on the menu. We want to save vegan eaters from having to call up restaurants and cafes every time before going to make sure that their diet can be accommodated, and having to panic if the waiter/waitress you then meet at the restaurant or cafe upon your arrival seems to have no idea about their prior arrangement with you. We want vegan eaters to be able to go to their favourite restaurant and enjoy like everyone else. Just as simple as that.
7. How much does your service cost?
For our first 50 SocialVegan eatery partners, you can become our SocialVegan eatery partner for free as long as you fulfil our criteria. This includes:
initial menu consultation
SocialVegan label for display at the entrance of the eateries
SocialVegan stickers for your menu items
From the 51st SocialVegan eatery partner onwards, we will start charging a fee. So act fast to take advantage of our low fee when we are still building our partner network!
We may offer additional services later. Stay tuned! Let us know if you have any suggestions (what about menu translation service?)
8. What is the application process for obtaining the SocialVegan label?
If you are interested in obtaining our SocialVegan label, please follow the below steps:
Step 1 - Read the criteria for getting a SocialVegan label below.
The criteria for an eatery to obtain the SocialVegan label are as follows:
1 vegan item in each of the main food sections of the menu. If there are more than 2 main food sections of the menu, 1 vegan item from at least 2 of the sections will be sufficient.
If you offer any special menus (e.g. lunch menu) alongside with your main menu, it would of course be nice to include some vegan options but we will not evaluate your eligibility based on your special menus as long as you can fulfil the above criteria at all times during your food serving hours, taking your menus as a whole.
We will review the application by eateries on a case by case basis based on the above guidelines. The guiding principle is that a vegan eater should be able to enjoy a proper experience in the eatery like everyone else.
The eatery should, during its food serving hours, be able to offer the items included in the criteria. The reason for having this requirement is that a vegan eater should not have to be in a situation where he/she has sat down at a restaurant but contrary to his/her expectation is unable to order the promised items. It does not have to be the same items that the eatery submits in their initial application for the SocialVegan label but it should always make available as a minimum the number of vegan items set out in the criteria for obtaining the SocialVegan label - you can of course continue to explore other vegan offerings creatively!
Step 2 - Read through your menu to see if the criteria can be satisfied without having to change your menu or whether you can update the menu to satisfy our criteria.
If your existing menu can satisfy the criteria already, or if you have redesigned a menu that satisfies our criteria, please send an email to email@example.com with the below information:
A short description of your eatery for us to determine which category of eateries we should place you in
A copy of your existing or proposed menu with clear indication as to the vegan items that satisfy the criteria
If you need help with satisfying our criteria, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
with the below information:
A short description of your restaurant for us to determine which category of eateries we should place you in
A copy of your existing or proposed menu and a description of the questions that you have. We will respond to your questions as soon as possible.
Step 3 - Once we have determined that you have satisfied our criteria, we will be in touch with you for the payment options (free for the first 50 eateries!) and other logistics (collection of SocialVegan label, stickers for vegan menu items, etc.).
We will also discuss with you further to create a feature on our website (http://www.socialveganhk.com), our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/socialveganhk), our Instagram page (http://www.instagram.com/socialveganhk/) and/or other channels to promote your eatery to the vegan eater population in Hong Kong.
9. What does an eatery partner need to do after obtaining the SocialVegan label?
Display our SocialVegan label at prominent spots at your eateries e.g. at the entrance to your eatery.
Clearly mark all vegan items that you use to satisfy our criteria on the menu. You can either mark it in the main menu, or have a separate vegan menu that is available on demand. You may use either your own marks or use our free SocialVegan stickers.
Ensure that the criteria for your SocialVegan label are fulfilled at all times during your opening hours. They do not have to be the same menu items that you submit to us when you applied for the label as long as the minimum number is fulfilled.
Comply with the logo usage terms.
10. Will an eatery partner lose its SocialVegan label after it obtains one?
Yes. We rely on our partners to honour their commitment to our SocialVegan community. We rely on our vegan eater friends to keep watch over our vegan eatery partners. If you find that an eatery partner does not offer the promised vegan items, please send us an email to email@example.com with supporting evidence and we can look into the matter. If a vegan eatery partner has been reported to miss their commitment 3 times, the SocialVegan label will be revoked and it will need to reapply as a new applicant for the SocialVegan label. We will also remove information about this partner from our public materials.
11. Will the criteria for eatery partners change?
We may amend the criteria from time to time after receiving feedback from our vegan eater friends. We will strive to keep these changes to a minimum and only if necessary to cater for the needs of our vegan eater community. If there is any changes to our label criteria, we will communicate these changes to our SocialVegan eatery partners and help our partners make any necessary adjustments to satisfy the new criteria. Our partners will have 6 months to satisfy the new criteria. If any eatery partner is unable to satisfy the new criteria after 6 months, we will unfortunately have to put you on a "dormant status" list until you provide sufficient evidence that you have satisfied our new criteria.
12. How do you evaluate if an eatery fulfils your criteria?
We will look at the materials submitted by the eatery and discuss with them either virtually or face-to-face if needed. The objective criteria are the main guidance but if a judgment call is needed, I will put on my vegan eater hat and try my best to reach a fair decision. If you think we have reached a wrong conclusion, come discuss with us. We are only trying to help and it is definitely not in our interest to bar anyone from helping our fellow SocialVegan friends!
One point to note is that we are not here targeting strict vegans who require that every ingredient be screened by us and that no animal product can be used on the entire premise. We are only here to help adding vegan options in terms of menu design. We do not inspect each and every kitchen of our eatery partners to study the nutrition label of each and every ingredient. We make it clear to all our eatery partners what a vegan diet is and the criteria for obtaining our SocialVegan label. We put our faith in them to ensure that our guidelines are adhered to. If you have an allergy problem or particularly strict dietary requirements due to any reason, we suggest that you check with the eatery directly to ensure that your dietary requirements can be accommodated.
13. What if a vegan arrives at an eatery that has been labelled SocialVegan, but does not offer the promised vegan options?
We are very sorry if this happens! Please be assured that we are trying our very best to avoid such situations. Please email us to firstname.lastname@example.org with the details of the incident and we can then get in touch with our eatery partner. There is a label revocation mechanism and we may revoke their SocialVegan label if repeated incidents are reported.
14. How do you ensure that all the ingredients used are vegan?
We do not inspect each and every kitchen of our eatery partners to study the nutrition label of each and every ingredient. We evaluate the eligibility of each eatery by reviewing the materials submitted to us. We are only here to help adding vegan options by design in the menu. We make it clear to all our eatery partners what a vegan diet is and the criteria for obtaining our SocialVegan label. We put our faith in them to ensure that our guidelines are adhered to. If you have an allergy problem or really strict dietary requirements due to any reason, we suggest that you check with the eatery directly to ensure that your dietary requirements can be accommodated.
15. Do you plan to expand internationally?
Why not! We are trying this first in Hong Kong because it is our home, but we will consider rolling this out internationally in our next phase.