18663 Ventura Blvd, Suite 202, Tarzana CA 91356

Sunday, July 07, 2019

I don't think that cheese is vegan....

We ordered pizza for a special occasion from a local pizza place.  The restaurant is not all vegan, but they do pride themselves on providing vegan options.  And, I've had their pizza before, and it's been pretty good. 

(Yes I'm a cardiologist, and no I don't eat pizza all too often.  This was a special occasion.)

There were several pizzas with the order, and only one that was ordered as vegan, as I was the only vegan among the group.  Someone had even gone to the effort to write "vegan" on the box, so I didn't think twice when I helped myself to a slice.

Something seemed odd about the pizza, a taste and a consistency that was unfamiliar.  As I continued to eat, I noticed the consistency of the cheese didn't seem like that of the Daiya non-dairy cheese that I'm accustomed to on pizza, and I began to suspect that this might have been dairy.  Rather than say anything, I stopped eating the pizza and helped myself to some salad.

About 30 minutes later, my stomach felt quite upset, and without providing graphic detail, it became clear that all was not well.

From the website of Cruzer, the only all-vegan pizzeria in Los Angeles.  I wish they were closer to where I live.

Maybe I'm just imagining things... and it really was vegan cheese?  So, I brought the leftover pizza home that evening to my lactose-intolerant boyfriend and showed it to him without saying anything.  His response:  "That looks like dairy cheese."

I called the restaurant, and the owner was the one who picked up.  I explained that I think that a vegan pizza that we ordered probably was made with dairy cheese.  She was skeptical, explained that they cater to the vegan community and that would not happen.  I said, "I'm about 99% sure this is dairy."  She asked me to take a photo and send it to her cell phone.

Upon sending the picture, I received a call back almost immediately.  As it turned out, our order came in at the same time as an order that included a vegetable pizza with dairy cheese.  The group that had ordered the vegetable pizza had called earlier, upset about the "funny" cheese on their pizza.  It looks like the pizzas from the two orders had gotten mixed up.

The owner sounded beside herself.  She was very apologetic, wanted to know what she could do to make it up to me.  I said I understood, it was an honest mistake, and the next time we visit, a pizza on the house would be great.

Now, I could see someone getting far more upset over this.  One could have posted a nasty one-star review to Yelp, or a long-winded social media post naming the restaurant and suggesting that vegans should boycott.  

I don't think that would be a good way to deal with this.  Even though the restaurant isn't all vegan, they do have many vegan choices, and as a result I want their business to do well for making the choice to provide vegan pizza.  Further, it does no one any good for vegans to come off as mean and self-righteous.  While I probably won't order from this restaurant again any time soon, I do want them to continue to have vegan offerings and view the vegan community positively.

What would you have done?


The Lonely Tester said...

I’m not a vegan, but I have multiple food sensitivities, including a severe sensitivity (or mild allergy, depending upon one’s perspective) to milk protein. I end up feeling utterly miserable.

I had a run-in with a restaurant that messed up my meal. The server had been very attentive taking my order and was beside himself at the error; the owner came out to apologize and to make sure that the error wasn’t repeated.

I could have gone ballistic, but I saw no reason to do that. The restaurant clearly wanted to get the order right and went out of their way to correct the error. They were extremely apologetic.

Blowing up would have done no good.

So yeah, I agree with how you handled it.

If the restaurant had gotten defensive or tried to gaslight you, then a proper chewing out would have been justified. But an honest mistake as you described, with apologies and grace? Nah.

Unknown said...

If the owner didn't apologize or do a make good, then your entitled a rant on Yelp. But since she did, you say thank you for the understanding and take a free pizza as an apology. We all make errors, but when there's no effort to make it up, nor accept a legitimate apology, that's when there's greater issues at hand, imo

Kate Kunkel Vegan Nutritionist said...

I think you did the right thing. The owner was apologetic and did not try to make you sound crazy. I would give them another chance, for sure! I remember I took a vegetarian friend out once, and the waiter put the wrong pizza in front of her. It was double cheese (she was not vegan) and she was excited to bite into it. Unfortunately, there was pepperoni on the underside of the cheese. She had about half a bite and totally freaked out. She refused to allow them to give her the other pizza and went into the bathroom and made herself sick. It was way too dramatic and ridiculous. Not an appropriate response at all. Reason and reasonable are the way to approach this. Accidents happen.