Michelle McCabe is the Co-Founder of The Tipsy Vegan in Norwich and Cambridge – and recently came fourth in a top 100 list of female entrepreneurs. Here, she explains how the dream is to become the UK’s first nationally recognised Vegan Restaurant Group
The Tipsy Vegan Norwich was a progression from our Norwich Market Food stall, Bia Vegan Diner, which we had from 2015-2018. The plan had been to test the waters with how a fully vegan food establishment would be received and following the almost instant success on the market we pushed forward with a bricks and mortar premise – and The Tipsy Vegan was born.
I’ve been in hospitality for more than 20 years now working across every role from server up to GM. Just before launching Bia, I was working in Finance Management and Consultancy for hospitality groups. I switched to a vegan lifestyle instantly in 2014 after watching a documentary. I had always planned to own my own restaurant at some point and once I became vegan it accelerated my desire to open something that would exclusively serve the food and drink that I was now passionate about.
Tipsy Vegan was established in 2017 and, if I was to describe it to anyone that hasn’t been, I’d say: “We are a fun casual style restaurant specialising in world inspired food and drinks that all happen to be vegan, some surprisingly so.”
We have a phenomenally loyal customer base in Norwich who have seen us through some tough times over the last few years. So yes, I think we offer a truly unique dining experience in the city that isn’t like any other, regardless of being vegan or not. The star of the show is our team who are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable. There aren’t many reviews we get that don’t mention how well looked after they are made to feel so our collective focus on customer experience is something we are proud of.
From when we first opened Norwich the plan had always been to eventually replicate what we had achieved there and open in other cities. While it is, for sure, challenging operating across two places 70 miles apart, the feedback and welcome we’ve had from the Cambridge community assures us we made the right decision.
Quite simply, our team and our customers have been what has kept us going. It is very, very tough being in this industry right now with extremely tight margins. Our motto is to stay as honest as possible with the people that work alongside us and, together, we’ve just had to be innovative and enthusiastic in delivering our product to ensure a stellar customer experience. In return we are lucky to have customers that do so much in terms of spreading the word to new guests and visiting us as often as they can.
Honestly, I thought it was spam when I first received the email about the E2E Female 100 List. Once I had established it was genuine, I was super grateful. It was a much-needed boost and has reinvigorated me to keep pushing forward with expansion plans. I’m super proud that we got to put a vegan business that originated in Norwich front and centre at the celebratory reception at the House of Commons.
Long term plans are to open further sites across the UK and bring our unique style of hospitality to all corners of the country. We are also looking at launching branded products for home consumption and canned Tipsy Vegan cocktails for retail in the not-too-distant future.
There are too many damaging factors involved in animal agriculture – the welfare of the animals, the environment, our health. The next biggest change I think we will see is plant-based food being embraced entirely across schools and universities. And those kids are our next generation of thought leaders and policy makers… It’ll happen sooner than we think and while we impatiently wait, we’ll be demonstrating how easy it can be to be vegan at our restaurants!
The Tipsy Vegan Norwich is located at 68-70 St Benedicts Street. Call 01603 666788 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Tipsy Vegan Cambridge is located at 6-8 Quayside. Call 01223 350542 or email email@example.com, For more information, visit www.thetipsyvegan.co.uk.