Today, omnipresent sandwich shop Pret a Manger opened its second vegetarian location. The first was in Soho and the new one's in Shoreditch, just around the corner from our office, so we went along to speak to people in the queue outside – the queue outside – about the ever-increasing appetite for veggie food and restaurants.
We also offered people some chicken, just to break the ice.
VICE: Do you think it's important that vegetarian / vegan restaurants are becoming more of a thing?
Tess, chef: I think that people are becoming more aware of the things they eat, the impact on the environment. Something like Veggie Pret means people by default might at one point in their day choose to eat vegetarian rather than eating meat. Not only are they giving vegetarianism a chance, or the option of eating veggie, they are showing that it can be delicious whilst changing the way we feel we need to eat. Food is my job, working with farmers and suppliers and seeing how the consumer responds and how big of a deal that is. I mean, due to Burger and Lobster the price of Canadian Lobster has skyrocketed, the number of them in the ocean has significantly decreased – and that is just one restaurant. I think for people who don't work in food it is those things that aren't understood. It is basically the business's responsibility to remain eco-friendly and sustainable.
Are you a vegetarian?
I say I'm not a vegetarian because I do test recipes with meat, but I don't cook meat for myself on a daily basis.
Do you think it's an ethical decision to be a vegetarian?
Our population has grown so much, and we can't sustain the amount of meat consumption we are ripping through at the moment. We need to eat less. If anything, I think Veggie Pret is helping that.
Are you a vegetarian or a vegan?
Sam: No, I'm just curious. I guess I am vegi-curious. Vegetarianism – I guess it's quite "in" at the moment.
Have you thought about becoming a vegetarian or a vegan?
I have thought about eating more vegetables; I heard it's quite good for you and for the environment.
If you sampled something veggie, would you be tempted to shove some of this chicken in it?
Not that. I mean, what is that chicken? It looks horrible. If you wanted to tempt me with meat then you'll have to pick something better than that – roast chicken or something.
Are you vegetarian or vegan?
Charles, IT contractor: Not at all, no. I used to always come in here, so I came in to see what had happened.
What do you think about the trend for vegetarian and vegan food?
I think it's good. I try to have, like, one vegetarian meal a day.
Was there anything in there that was alluring you with its greenness?
It's too busy in there, I couldn't even grab a sandwich. Everyone is in there with their phones taking pictures.
Would you ever go vegan?
Probably not, no. I'm South African, so I've had a meat-based diet all my life. But perhaps this will help me move towards a more vegan-based existence. It's a mindset, I think.
Are you guys vegetarian or vegan?
Jeremy: I am not a vegetarian.
There are a lot of non-vegetarians here.
Jeremy: They're giving out badges and bags – who am I to disagree to a badge and a bag?
Jeremy, would you ever become more persuaded to become vegan or vegetarian because of the veggie Pret?
No, but because I go to lunch with this guy [JS, who is vegetarian] quite often now, I do eat more veggie stuff. But the presence of a veggie Pret isn't going to change anything.
We brought some chicken to see if we could tempt people, but I guess there is literally no chance with you, JS. Have you ever tried meat?
Even on a boozy night out?
JS: Not that I know of.
Jeremy: His body is a temple.
Is it alright if I get my chicken out for the picture?
JS: Yeah, that's fine. I'm not allergic.
Are you vegetarian or vegan?
Carl: No, I play rugby so I have to eat loads of chicken breasts every single day. When I went to university I was two stone underweight to play university rugby, so I found this diet on Reddit called the Gomad diet where you drink a gallon of milk a day, and I put on two stone. But I was going to the toilet every like 20 minutes.
Because all humans are slightly lactose intolerant aren't they?
Yeah, one in four black people and 97 percent of Native American people are lactose intolerant. It has all to do with at what point your culture domesticated cows.
Are you upset about the opening of Veggie Pret?
I was annoyed when they renovated this because I ate the sausage and egg Pret a lot. I used Monzo, the smart phone system, and found out I'd spent over a grand on Pret last year because every single day I'd just go in and get an egg and sausage sandwich.
But now I can't do it. But I eat too much meat anyway, so if I'm forced to eat non-meat things that's good, I guess.
You could still be super muscly by eating eggs and stuff?
Yeah, and cheese.
If you didn't play sport would you be swayed to become a vegan?
I'd become a veggie, but veganism is not about veganism in this country. The veganism that is promoted and endorsed in the media that we consume is not about animal protection. It is more about power.
In the sense of capitalising off a trend?
Like, there is a photo of Beyonce in a vegan restaurant wearing fur. Veganism, as we know it in this world, as a capitalist society, is not about eating properly and preserving your body; it is more about looking good. Most of the world is vegetarian anyway because meat is expensive. My parents didn't eat meat every single day because they grew up in West Africa, so when my mum got to Britain she made a point of eating meat all the time because she could afford it, and that is what I got brought up with.
Are you vegetarian or vegan?
Jasmine: No, I came for popcorn. I think [vegetarianism and veganism is] good, but I do like the chicken sandwiches, so for selfish reasons I am quite gutted.
If you were vegan or vegetarian, what sort of food would you miss most?
I'm really into Mexican food, but I know there are vegetarian options for that type of food. I think it's just convenience because you need so much fresh food to make vegetarian food, and I am all about the convenience unfortunately.
I feel like it kind of is easier to make vegetarian food nice, though, because if you grill some meat it can go very wrong, but it's hard to fuck up vegetables.
I know what you mean, but I'm not very creative with food, so I'm more likely to be like "chicken, rice…" rather of trying to think of all these things. I am so illiterate when it comes to this.