5 steps to make Dubrovnik a vegan destination
May 24, 2021 – We sat down with Alyssa Isogawa, one of the digital nomads in residence in Dubrovnik, to try and create five stages to make Dubrovnik a vegan-friendly destination.
Alyssa has been a vegan for eight years now. She is from California, known for its many restaurants, shops and vegan markets. However, she suggests that was not always the case. Her experience in Dubrovnik is overwhelmingly positive, but getting food hasn’t always been easy. She lived for a month in Dubrovnik as part of the Digital Nomads-in-Residence program. During that month, she struggled to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. There are some good vegan options in Dubrovnik when it comes to restaurants. Still, the selection is quite limited. On the other hand, there is very little information available to foreign newcomers to the city on how and where to find suitable food.
Through a lengthy coffee-fueled meeting with Alyssa, we’ve managed to come up with a list of 5 steps Dubrovnik can take to become a vegan destination. Most of these steps would also be of great help for local vegans. Not only that, but local omnivores might be interested in going vegans a few days a week. It would be good for the environment and for local producers.
Produce markets and stores
The main mission of a traveling vegan is to find a diverse selection of fresh vegetables and fruits, of good quality and at a reasonable price. The good thing about Dubrovnik is: there is a lot of local, seasonal produce around. There are also a few farmers’ markets, the largest being in the Port of Gruz area. With a few greengrocers in town, the selection is actually not bad. The problem is, these places rarely advertise. They never advertise to foreigners. This is an obvious consequence of short-term tourism. The average customer in Dubrovnik who comes to town for 2-3 days is hardly looking for vegetables to buy during that time.
The potential solution calls for greater visibility of these companies. Advertising, branding and inclusion in promotional material promoting the city are obvious solutions. Another beneficial thing would be to educate the people who sell their products on the needs and market share of vegan visitors and locals. Various food delivery services have become popular in Croatia. They would probably do well to cooperate with these companies who could then offer online ordering and delivery of fresh produce.
Updated restaurant menus
Many restaurants in Dubrovnik lack a decent supply of vegan food. Aside from two dedicated vegan restaurants, very few other places offer quality vegan options. Most of the offer comes down to grilled vegetables or seasonal salads. These dishes lack the major food groups needed for a balanced meal. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats should be present on the plate in all vegan main dishes. They are rarely in restaurants offering vegan dishes just to satisfy the format.
Restaurant menus need to be updated. However, that doesn’t just mean additional work or expenses incurred by the restaurant. It means a chance for more business. Most Dubrovnik restaurateurs underestimate the share of vegan customers. Not only that, but they don’t realize that vegan customers usually come to their restaurants with their partners or friends. If the restaurant doesn’t offer vegan options, it will lose not only that vegan guest, but also the people they come to eat with. To make their efforts worth it, restaurants need to be upfront with their vegan options. Things like HappyCow stickers or similar signs let the potential customer know that the place has vegan options.
Enriching local cuisine
Linked to the previous step, Croatian and Dubrovnik chefs may want to mobilize and make their voices heard on the vegan issue. The point is, many Croatian vegans want the changes described here. There are also a number of talented and highly trained local chefs. They could be encouraged to revisit some of the more popular local dishes and create vegan versions of the classics. This action could be linked to the promotion of local cuisine to the vegan market. Creating delicious new dishes reminiscent of traditional Dubrovnik cuisine is a great thing in itself. When these dishes are also modern, healthy and environmentally friendly, the promotional opportunities are endless.
Labeling of vegan food products in stores and souvenir shops
There is a lot of food in the shops and souvenir shops in Dubrovnik. Spreads, preserves, sauces or pastes are usually labeled in such a way that they may be understandable to locals, but are rarely easy to read for foreigners. Additionally, sales staff are often unsure whether certain food items in the store are vegan or not. Many potential buyers will refrain from purchasing them due to this lack of information. Clear labeling of foods suitable for vegans would distinguish these items. Staff training would also contribute to this innovation. Much like restaurants with vegan options, stores with vegan-friendly items might use signs or stickers to notify potential customers. Sauces and spreads are a great addition to simple, homemade vegetable dishes to elevate them.
Education of Dubrovnik residents
Perhaps the most important step is to educate the locals about vegan food. Most people don’t know what real vegan food is. Many of them don’t know how delicious, healthy and balanced a proper vegan diet is. By raising awareness of the health and environmental benefits of vegan food, Dubrovnik would launch a chain of dominoes, becoming a truly vegan-friendly city. With more local vegans and people interested in occasional vegan meals, businesses would adapt quickly. The vegan community is tight-knit and vibrant. In an area famous for local food, vegetable-based cuisine might be the next big thing, not just for visitors.
The majority of the steps proposed in this text arise from problems caused mainly by a lack of knowledge or interest. Informative events, pop-up food stalls or food trucks celebrating vegan food would do wonders for the local food scene. The future is green. Let’s make Dubrovnik a city of the future!
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