The Bull City Vegan Challenge
Bull City Vegan
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Bull City Vegan is a 100% volunteer-run organization of passionate vegan activists promoting vegan dining options in Durham, North Carolina, also known as the “Bull City.” Every two years, Bull City Vegan hosts a city-wide, month-long vegan challenge.
During the Bull City Vegan Challenge (BCVC), Durham-based restaurants offer one new, 100% plant-based menu item. Restaurant-goers then have one month to visit the participating eateries and try their new vegan menu option, after which they get a special stamp on their Restaurant Passport. At the end of the month, people vote for their favorite dish.
This year, Bull City Vegan added a “sustainability” component, requesting that restaurants source their meals locally and sustainably. In the past, Bull City Vegan has received grants from VegFund to host the BCVC after-party, and this year they applied for a grant to support their marketing and communications efforts during the challenge itself.
- Expose restaurant-goers to delicious, creative vegan food
- Demonstrate to restaurants the business potential of adding more vegan items to their menu
expressed interest in attending on Facebook
of challenge voters were not previously vegan
The Bull City Vegan Challenge is all about collaboration. Volunteers from the group approach local restaurants, asking them to participate in the Challenge and create a unique vegan dish. After many years of holding these biannual vegan challenges, restaurants know that participating in the event is good for business, and chefs enjoy the creative challenge of developing a vegan dish.
Chefs were given a few weeks to come up with a dish that was not only fully vegan but worthy of winning the fan favorite votes held at the end of the month. See the full list here. (VegFund’s staff was lucky enough to try the Biang Biang noodles with shiitake & tofu, yu choi, cucumber, radish, black vinaigrette, and chili oil at M Kokko!)
Next, Bull City Vegan’s volunteers developed marketing materials, partnering with a local business “Durham Originals” and their owner, Daria Drake, who is new to veganism and was inspired when learning about the Challenge to get involved. Daria designed the logo and posters for the BCVC event, including a “passport” that diners could use to indicate which of the BCVC dishes they had tried.
Event organizers created a Facebook event page and promoted the event heavily on their social media platforms. They received a considerable amount of press, including a radio interview and local TV news affiliate coverage on CBS17 and WNCN and were also featured on popular Durham website Best of the Bull.
Additionally, Bull City Vegan partnered with the local farmers market to host a vegan cooking demo that helped promote the challenge and encourage people to visit the participating restaurants.
- Vegan Challenge dishes made up 30% of sales for some of the participating restaurants in the month of April!
- Nearly half of the participants in the challenge voting said they were not previously vegan.
- One restaurant, Dos Perros, completely sold out of their vegan menu on the first day of the challenge.
- Other restaurants experienced similar issues, frequently selling out of their BCVC dish.
- As a result of its popularity, M Kokko’s Biang Biang bowl is now featured on the permanent main menu, replacing a chicken dish on the restaurant’s small menu to join a previously-existing vegan option.
Leverage your community! BCVC is so successful in part because of the way the group uses many local connections in a way that benefits all.
Their collaborators included:
- a local artist, whose work was seen all over town and who felt good about contributing to the vegan movement,
- 10 local restaurants, all of whom gained additional press and sales upticks due to the challenge,
- the farmers market, which provided a space for the group to host a vegan cooking demo,
- various local businesses, which contributed prizes, services, and awards to both restaurant winners and restaurant-goers, and
- various local bloggers, who welcomed the guest content and received additional readers due to all of the promotion.