Thursday, October 15, 2009

The battle of Fleming Street - Green Republic vs Help Yourself!

In the last few months, Fleming Street has become a battle ground between competing veggie cafes.

Today we went into both veggie restaurants on Fleming Street:

Green Republic

('be lean, be green')
just off Duval
Opened a few months
All veggie but not organic
kitchen: total separation between front of house and kitchen, cannot see good being made
design: Minimalist, high design interior, lots of open wait space inside, air conditioned
Green Republic website

Help Yourself!

('delicious, nutritious, natural food')
a few more blocks north - but not that far (Margaret Street)
Opened just before Fantasy Fest 2008 (so almost a year) - was Bubba's (but no relation)
kitchen: right there by the till, watch your food being made
design: busy, carrots, experiential, wait space outside (shaded)
Help Yourself website

As you can read from the above they are quite different in style and menu (bearing in mind they are both veggie and after the same market).

Also both have set their sights on 'world veggie domination' with both having expansion plans for the future - although in both cases, Key West is currently their only outpost.

I really want both businesses to succeed, and have purchased from both this week (and there is no reason why they cannot as it's Key West after all - a diverse and busy eating out market).

But this week one of them has really annoyed me so time to get off sitting on the fence....

Green Republic

Fascinating menu
Really great 'chicken' (=i.e. veggie) nuggets
BUT... we asked on 3 different days for 'chicken' Marinara and they were out of it on every single occasion!!

I can deal with frustration in restaurants. Once. But this was 3 times!! And the third time there was no 'chicken' at all, knocking out several options.

And, worst really, the staff did not seem too bothered by the continued lack of this option.

Either have it, or remove it from the menu. It's all about expectation management!

Help Yourself!

So, unsatisfied and without purchase, we wandered up Fleming to Help Yourself!

We ordered pasta and a salad. Watched it being cooked in front of us by Charlie. Chatted to the new co-partner Annie who (is lovely and) has only been part of the partnership for a few days. Everything was fresh and delicious. It's more hectic experience (I liked at!) and the ladies are great folks, are committed to both the food and the community.

And the food was great.

End of round one: winners were....... Help Yourself!

But Green Republic will be strong competitors in the future I am sure.

My advice would be:

Green Rep: Guys...Be able to deliver what your menus says you can.

Help Yourself!: Ladies.. Slightly easier to navigate menu would be good and also have some things on the menu that are a bit naughty - remember that lots of your visitors are tourists and so don't care too much about being mega healthy.

Good luck to both!

(and, finally, how will they stand the test of time against that old timer, the Veggie Cafe?)

Here's Help Yourself's scarily good juice selection: