Rob Davidson discovers a vegan meetings menu fit for football fans in the South West
I suppose you could say I’m a born-again vegetarian. I went off meat big-style during the 1990s when mad cows were on the rampage. But then I moved to France for nine years, and, well, let’s just say that that country wasn’t exactly veggie-friendly at that time. So I started eating fish, then poultry, then red meat, and offal … basically anything that was put in front of me.
Last year I decided to give vegetarianism another go, and I have to tell you that I haven’t looked back. I feel physically lighter and more mentally alert than I have in a long time. I’m convinced my new-found vitality is worth the sacrifice of giving up all that mammal munching.
Off and on, over the past year, I found myself idly wondering if there were any veggie venues in the UK, offering only meat-free meals to delegates. Well, I recently found out that there is at least one, and it came as something of a surprise to me to hear what kind of venue it is. Last month, I found myself in Exeter running a one-day workshop for around 50 venue sales staff called ‘How to Win More Meetings for your Venue’. When we got to that part of the workshop where I ask the participants to speak about their venues’ USPs, Chloe Poole, the events assistant at Forest Green Rovers FC, said her venue now serves only vegan food at the club’s New Lawn stadium.
The driving force behind this bold decision is club chairman, Dale Vince, he of sustainable electricity fame – and fortune. He’s adamant that from an environmental perspective, the production of meat and dairy for human consumption is responsible for more emissions than all the world’s planes, trains, cars and boats put together. Putting his principles into practice, the club stopped serving meat to players, fans and staff about four seasons ago, and has been on a mission ever since then to introduce all stadium visitors to the experience of eating food that is 100% vegan. In Vince’s words, “Demonstrating what a plant-based diet looks and tastes like, is an important part of our work.”
Judging by the stadium’s success as a conference venue, the change to vegan catering has been a shrewd move. According to Poole: “It was quite a challenge to make the change. Finding the products that we used to serve such as classic sandwiches proved difficult, so we brought in our own chef who makes all of our food from scratch on site. This has been great for our meetings and conferences as we offer something different to what other venues do locally. The food is vegan but it is also fresh, locally sourced and healthy, which has led to a number of new clients coming to us for a completely unique experience.”
I’m not sure if I could go fully vegan myself – I’m a bit too fond of the odd deep-fried Camembert for that. But I’ll take my hat off to anyone who can wean football fans off the traditional Scotch pie at half-time.