Food Service

The Vurger Co Closes its Doors, Citing Government Failures & “Anti-Vegan Misinformation”

British vegan fast food chain The Vurger Co has closed its doors for the last time, following years of “seemingly endless domestic and international crises”.

After launching in 2016, The Vurger Co. opened four locations in total — two in London, one in Brighton, and one in Manchester. The restaurants have served hundreds of thousands of burgers over the years, including to celebrities such as Billie Eilish. The chain also launched a range of sauces for retail at Ocado, Whole Foods, and Co-op, as well as further afield at stores in Los Angeles, New York City, and Dubai.

“The last four years have truly been disastrous for everybody”

But like most hospitality businesses, The Vurger Co struggled during the pandemic, heightened by what the company describes as “infuriating government policy”. Ensuing crises, such as the conflict in Ukraine, led to soaring costs due to inflation, followed by plummeting sales as consumer spending power was reduced. A drop in investor confidence in the sector made things even worse.

“Restaurants operate on the finest of margins at the best of times, but the last four years have truly been disastrous for everybody, and so very simply, it feels like a financial impossibility for businesses of our size to survive without some level of external support right now. However, the government has shown repeatedly that it is completely incapable of understanding what the industry needs, and the ways in which all operators are suffering right now,” said co-founder Rachel Hugh in a blog post.

The rise of vegan restaurants in Brighton
© Lauren Dudley

“Not a vegan problem”

Hugh went on to blame the UK’s “nonsensical” business rates system — which she said was unfair to brick-and-mortar businesses — along with “punishing” VAT rates. She pointed out that the number of company insolvencies was 33% higher in 2023 than in 2022.

“2024 has continued where 2023 left off, and restaurants and bars are closing at a truly terrifying rate no matter their cuisine; this is not a vegan problem,” she said.

Additionally, she condemned “anti-vegan misinformation”, with the mainstream media often blaming the closure of plant-based restaurants on the “death of veganism” while ignoring the fact that non-vegan restaurants are also struggling. She believes that this type of reporting has damaged consumer confidence.

“Veganism is not dying — far from it — and it is a scientific fact that the world must, simply must, reduce its meat and dairy intake,” Hugh said. “There are far more people who are vegan, or eating more plants and less meat, now than ever before, and these statistics have never once gone into reverse, despite what these ridiculous click-bait articles say.”

©The Vurger Co

“Force for good”

Hugh revealed that The Vurger Co had considered changing its concept — similar to the strategy recently adopted by Neat — as consumers increasingly seek more whole food options. However, the company decided that the issues facing the industry were too large for this to be successful.

She finished by imploring consumers to support their favourite vegan businesses, while calling on the government to make changes such as lowering VAT, reforming hospitality business rates, and providing energy support. Additionally, she asked investors to continue to support the plant-based industry.

“We are so proud of the positive impact we have had on the vegan restaurant industry over the eight years of trading,” Hugh told vegconomist. “We have helped people build long-term careers in this industry, we have created long-lasting innovative menu creations using ingredients in fresh new ways, we’ve helped customers discover how delicious vegan food truly is and overall we have reduced the stigma attached to the word ‘vegan’ through excellence in QSR hospitality. We will be using our voices and well-earned experience as a force for good moving forward, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for vegan innovation in this space.”

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