Sydney Vegan Club, our volunteer team and I take great pride in organising events that are enjoyable, inspiring, insightful and/or entertaining in all facets. In the past five years we have organised and hosted over six hundred meetups and events, many with hundreds of people attending. As co-ordinator of Sydney Vegan Club, I always have the best intentions to create smoothly run events, and try to minimise spaces for errors and issues. Most of our events over the last five years have been hugely successful, with warm reviews and positive outcomes.
Unfortunately there were some errors at our february 2018 cruise party which led to some negative reviews and reports of a poor experience had by some of the guests. I’d like to address these issues for the final time. There has also been some confusion and inaccuracies floating around social media that I’d like to clarify.
To begin, I’d like to point out that a cruise party with hundreds of guests, as well as entertainers, staff, food, equipment is a very challenging and complex thing to organise and put together. It takes 40-60 hours to plan and create an event of this scale. Most people would never consider taking on such a task, and therefore not having experienced it, are very much unaware of whats involved or how challenging it is. With an event of this complexity, there are many areas where errors could occur and things could go not according to the original plan or vision. There are run sheets to design, briefings to give and tiny details that have to be attended to and organised. Whilst the past four previous cruise parties have helped me in some way to gain some experience, they were much smaller and held on a different boat with a different cruise company. Each event venue has different challenges and really the only way to gain experience is by actually doing it, making attempts at creating a successful event, and learning from that experience.
Discount offered to all guests towards a future event
I acknowledge that some guests did not have an enjoyable overall experience due to the errors with the food and/or drinks, and I’m sorry that they had this experience. In balance to the negative reviews, I’d also like to point out that many guests reported that they had a great time, and enjoyed the event immensely. I also asknowledge that some of the guests may have not bothered or ‘gotten around to’ raising their complaints after the event.
Rather than trying to establish which of the 375 guests were happy and which were not, we’ve decided to offer the following two options to ALL guests of the event:
A 50% DISCOUNT OFF TICKETS TO OUR NEXT CRUISE PARTY
Our next cruise event is planned for sat 21st april. It will be very similar to last event, although obviously we will take great care to address and rectify the issues regarding food and drinks. Our next event is a charity event, with 100% of all profits going to Peanuts Funny Farm and Where Pigs Fly Animal Sanctuaries. I’ll be doing the 40-60 hours that it takes to plan, market and host this event on a totally voluntary basis.
A 25% DISCOUNT OFF ANY ONE UPCOMING SVC EVENT IN THE NEXT THREE MONTHS
We understand that some people won’t be available on the 21st of April, so are offering a discount off any (one) upcoming event over the next three months. SVC events may include food events, nutrition seminars, cooking classes and film events so we hope you find something that appeals to you that you can attend. To find out about what events are coming up, check out our most recent newsletter here, and keep an eye out on upcoming newsletters – feel free to subscribe
How to claim your discount:
Once you’ve decided which event you’d like to attend, simply email me via email@example.com stating the event name and date, and I’ll write back with a discount code that you can use on the ticket page.
Clarifying The Issues With The Food Quantity
I acknowledge that some guests felt that you were not adequately fed at our event, and I am sorry that you had this experience.
To clarify, the event was originally advertised on eventbrite as ‘seven courses of canapes’. The event sold out under this expectation, meaning that everyone who purchased tickets for the event purchased a ticket with the expectation of seven courses of canapes. Some time after the event had already sold out, we did a post on our facebook event page announcing that we would have ‘nine different dishes’. I wrote this because I was excited that our food sponsors had extended their food offerings, and wanted to share this excitement with our guests. I was optimistic and confident about the quantities of food served would be satifactory. I did not intend to mislead anyone or cuase anyone discomfort of not being properly fed.
Oxford dictionary defines canapes as ‘A small piece of bread or pastry with a savoury topping’. It is generally understood by most people that canapes will be small morsels – not a large meal.
I thought that we were well stocked up for everyone to have a decent meal. The quantity of food ordered for the event and served on the night was more than 171kg, to cater for the 375 guests who showed up. This is more than 456gm per person, ample to satisfy the expectations of ‘canapes’, and even have a decent sized meal.
The food order included:
vegetables in sticks x 18kg
Adzuki Bean Patties 10kg
Pumpkin Bites 6kg
Brown Rice Veg Bites 6kg
Beetroot, Relish x 4kg
Tahini Sauce x 4kg
Salsa x 4kg
Tzatziki x 4kg
Smokey chipotle x 4kg
Hommus x 5kg
Beet Hommus x 5kg
Capsicum Hommus x 5kg
Roasted Pumpkin Hommus x 5kg
Babaganouge x 5kg
Kale Pesto x 5kg
Black bean salsa x 5kg
Cheezy Kale & Cashew Sausages x 20kg
Italian Sun Dried Tomato Sausages x 20kg
Smoky Chipotle Sausages x 20kg
Ice cream 20kg
Chocolate 800 pieces
99% of this total food was served on the night (except for a few packets of the dips, since we ran out of veggie sticks to go with it).
It is impossible that anybody on the cruise got ‘no food’, with this quantity of food being evenly distributed around the boat by our team of six waiters, each designated to half a floor of the three levels of the boat. Despite words thrown around on social media such as ‘starving’ or ‘famished’, not a single guests reported to me that they receive zero food on the boat.
There was logistical challenges in regards to achieving even distribution of the food throughout the vessels three floors, and I apologise that unfortunately this caused some people to miss out on some of the dishes. We made every effort to distribute it evenly, with each of our six waiters designated to one half of one level of the three levels of the boat. Challenges arose because perhaps the food was not brought out fast enough at the beginning of the evening, and standing guests moved towards the food whereas the seated guests were waiting for it to be brought to them.
At our next event we plan to address these challenges by the following:
1. Ordering more food quantity in general
2. Having large amounts of food ready on tables before the guests board
Clarifying The Issues With The Drinks
I acknowledge that some people where sold a non-vegan drink at the event, and I’m very sorry that this occurred.
SVC is a 100% vegan organisation, an ethical vegan group and we have an abolitionist stance against the use of animals and animal products. All food and drinks at our events are always intended to be vegan.
In regards to the drinks, in preparation to have a wonderful vegan bar at our Harbour Cruise Party event that everyone could enjoy, I spent three hours going through the 43 drinks that Captain Cook Cruises usually stocks on their boats, googling, searching Barnivore.com etc and emailing companies to compile the resulting drinks list planned for the night.
I gave this list in PDF ready to print format to the cruise company with strict instructions to ONLY sell these drinks on the night, as well as to print them out and have the lists avaible on the bar for everyone to read. They replied and said that they would do this. We also posted this list onto our event page for all guests to view.
When I boarded the boat on the event day I checked with the boat manager to see that the staff had been briefed in regards to the vegan drinks list. I discovered that the bar had not received the printouts, but had received the list within their general briefing for all bar staff, and that they were aware of which drinks were vegan and what they could and couldn’t sell. This list was then placed on the bar. I checked verbally with all bar staff that they had been briefed in this regard.
There was some confusion on the night regarding Tyrell’s red wines. As part of our planning for the event we contacted Tyrells’ to find out if any of their wines are vegan. We were informed by the winery Sales Coordinator of Tyrrell’s via email on 2nd Feb ’18 that their Moore’s Creek Shiraz is vegan, even though it is not labelled as such. For this reason we added it to the vegan drinks list. Although Tyrells’ have not yet updated their label for this wine, the wine is in fact vegan.
It was reported by a few guests that Captain Cook Cruises bar staff sold non vegan drinks on the night. This was completely against our clear instructions made to the company via email on 11th Jan ’18 (see attached). In this email we emphasis the importance that all drinks served are vegan.
If the drink that you purchased on the night was not ‘Tyrell’s shiraz’ and was not vegan, we suggest that you contact Captain Cook Cruises general manager – Anthony Haworth – via 8062 3663 or firstname.lastname@example.org to request a refund for that drink.
Unfortunately I made one typo when preparing the vegan drinks list, and sorting out the non vegan from the vegan drinks. There was one drink – The Ninth Island Pinor Noir, that unfortunately ended up on the wrong (vegan) list. I’m aware of one guest who purchased this wine, and am extremely sorry that this ocurred.
Apart from this error, I feel that I did my absolute best to facilitate a 100% vegan bar at this event and that the cruise company is largely at fault for multiple non-vegan drinks purchases – for not following our clear instructions to not serve any non-vegan drinks, and making use of my list that I prepared. They did not follow my clear instructions and did not adequetly brief their staff prior to the event as I requested.
I have sent multiple emails and spoken over the phone with the general manager of Captain Cook Cruises, but they have refused to take any responsiblity for their inability to ensure a vegan bar.
At our next event I plan to ensure a properly and entirely vegan bar through the following steps:
1. Research and prepare the vegan drinks list, and double check it for errors
2. Double check that the cruise company is aware that NO non-vegan drinks are to be served on the night
3. Once boarding for event setup, brief the management and staff myself to further emphasise the importance of not serving non-vegan drinks.
4. Check the activities at the bar at verious times during the night, to ensure that our instructions are being followed.
A Learning Experience
As mentioned earlier in this post, I have a huge amount of events experience. Many vegan businesses in Sydney and Melbourne (Gigi Pizzeria, The Green Lion, Green Mushroom, East Sydney Hotel, The Snug) have hired me to organise their launch events, I’ve done the Sydney premiere of every new vegan film thats been created since 2012. (Cowspiracy, What The Health, Live & Let Live, The Ghosts In Our Machine). I’ve organised events that were near perfect, with smiles on everyones’ faces, lovely reviews on social media the following day and so much positivity and great promotion of the vegan lifestyle, inspiration sharing, community building and connection.
I am however, merely human. I’m liable to occasionally make mistakes, just like everyone else is.
The backlash on social media in relation to the errors made on the cruise party was astonishing and very upsetting. Its incredible to see how much exaggeration people can employ when expressing their grievances on social media and turning it into some kind of competitive sport, where everyone wants to say the most shocking or humerous description just to get ‘likes’, and how quickly some people – who I know have enjoyed some of our hundreds of successful events in the past – seem to quickly forget about these positive experiences and instead dwell on this one single negative one. It was sad to see how some newcomers to the community are unwilling to spend five minutes to be aware of the output of positive work I have contributed to the vegan movement in Sydney over the last five years, and instead make snap judgements about me due to a single event where a few mistake were made.
Some of you may have witnessed me in the 24 hours after the event react quite heatedly to some of a few posts and comments. I hope you can appreciate that I was completely overwhelmed with the level of anger and venom that I experienced, and found myself trying to defend my character and entire reputation, instead of explaining the simple honest errors I made in planning and running this one event. Under this barrage of irrational and at times defamatory criticism, one would have to have the patience of a zen monk to not be affected and become a little emotional and defensive. I hope those who know me to be a generally mild mannered person can forgive me this short period where I may have reacted.
My work over the last five years includes the following:
* Creating the first ever online vegan FB group community in sydney, which now has over 10,600 locals connected in a friendly constructive forum
* Organising, funding and hosting FORTY-FOUR x FREE 2.5 hour public vegan education events in Sydney featuring talk, vegan film and food tasting
* Giving 38 talks about vegan education around Australia
* Co-writing the Sydney Vegan Club 30 page 30 day Vegan challenge and leading a team which has mentored over two thousand new vegans through this challenge in sydney since it was launched in 2014
* Planning and hosting twelve New Vegan Support Meetings at Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre
* Holding over SEVEN HUNDRED ticketed vegan events in Sydney and Melbourne including cooking classes, nutrition seminars, food events and other social events
* Planning and hosting forty-one free public screenings of A Plastic Ocean film around Australia, showing this information to over 5,000 people.
I list these achievements not to brag or blow my own trumpet, but to remind long term members and educate new comers of the body of work that I and our team have achieved and built over the last five years, in the hopes that it is not overshadowed by a couple of blunders and one single recent event.
The anger, insults and negativity that I’ve witnessed on social media in relation to the errors at the event seem very disproportional to me and have been very upsetting, and caused me a lot of heartche and sleepless nights. Under the weight of this negativity I have considered ceasing running vegan events in Sydney, however when I’m reminded of the incredible positive effect of our many previous events, the huge community we have built, the programs and initiatives that we’ve created, and the (mostly) supportive and friendly community we’ve assembled, I’ve instead come up with the above offerings as way of compensation to our guests of this event, and resolved to learn from the experience moving forward, and come up with strategies to ‘get it right’ next time.
I also remind myself that (aside from the human health and environmental benefits), veganism is not about us. Its mostly about the animals – and the animals just need us to do something positive for them, and do it now!
I’m determined to make our next event (and all future events) positive and successful in every way, and use the experience of the february cruise event to ‘nail it’ next time.
I’m very pleased to have the support and understanding of our sponsors, who have agreed to continue to back us, and get behind our upcoming charity event. I’ll be working as a volunteer for this event, to plan, market and host our upcoming 21st April cruise party. I truly hope that everyone will get behind it and give me the opportunity to show that I can learn from my mistakes, and we can all be part of an event that will bring like minded people together for an enjoyable night of connection, promote the vegan lifestyle, and support these two wonderful charities – Peanuts Funny Farm and Where Pigs Fly Animal Sanctuaries.
In the meantime, since our february harbour cruise, I’ve not stopped with my normal hectic schedule of outreach, education and community support, by hosting two free vegan education events featuring ‘The Ghosts In Our Machine’, two free entry screenings of ‘A Plastic Ocean’, as well as a few other film events, running our facebook group and thirty day challenge, creating our newsletters and planning our many upcoming events and projects.
I hope that this post has helped clarify some of the concerns that some guests and members of our community have had, and helped people to realise that I had only the most positive intentions for this event and am willing to make up for my errors. I also hope everyone understands the huge commitment that I have for the Sydney vegan community and my passion for promoting kinder, greener, healthier choices in our city.
I hope to have the pleasure of your company at our upcoming charity cruise party event and/or some of our future events, and your involvement in our outreach and education initiatives.
Founder, Sydney Vegan Club
As always, I welcome feedback and input so feel free to email me if you have any suggestions or thoughts on the issues at hand or our group in general, thanks.