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Vegan food stall quits Norwich Market as trading becomes ‘increasingly difficult’

PUBLISHED: 13:06 02 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:02 03 December 2018

Cheryl Mullenger, left, and Michelle McCabe, co-owners of the Bia Vegan Diner, pictured on the stall on Norwich Market in 2016. The pair are closing their market stall to find new premises in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Cheryl Mullenger, left, and Michelle McCabe, co-owners of the Bia Vegan Diner, pictured on the stall on Norwich Market in 2016. The pair are closing their market stall to find new premises in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A popular vegan diner is saying goodbye to its Norwich Market home in search of pastures new in the city.

Bia Vegan Diner's popular jackfruit bap. Picture: Bia Vegan DinerBia Vegan Diner's popular jackfruit bap. Picture: Bia Vegan Diner

When founders Cheryl Mullenger and Michelle McCabe set up their street food business Bia Kitchen (now Bia Vegan Diner) in 2015 it was the first vegan food stall on the city’s market.

But as the dietary trend has grown in popularity, and more food businesses on the market have updated their menus to cater to it, the pair say they have found trading on their stall “increasingly difficult”.

As a result, December will be their last trading month on the market – but the Bia story won’t end there.

Miss Mullenger and Miss McCabe are on the hunt for an indoor premises which will allow them to showcase more of their tasty vegan fare and provide space for customers to sit inside.

Meals at the Tipsy Vegan in Norwich, the restaurant run by the owners of Bia Vegan Diner. Photo: Courtesy of the Tipsy VeganMeals at the Tipsy Vegan in Norwich, the restaurant run by the owners of Bia Vegan Diner. Photo: Courtesy of the Tipsy Vegan

Miss Mullenger said a lack of storage and preparation space meant the stall often struggled to meet demand from diners.

“It was always our goal to run a diner. We have a very varied and vast menu and on the market one downside is we can only put a small menu on. That is why we did specials, but it became very difficult – we do everything from scratch so there was a lot of pressure cooking-wise for me to do that off-site as we don’t have the facilities on-site.

“In the diner we would look to have our whole menu on, which is 20 dishes not five, and I have a back catalogue of dishes I want to try.”

She added: “It [the market] is not a big enough place to have two businesses doing the same thing so we want to have a more self-contained place where the customers will come to us and have a greater menu.”

Miss Mullenger said she and Miss McCabe had tried to sell the lease for their market stall to recoup some costs – but most of the bids were from food businesses selling meat.

She said: “We made the difficult decision not to sell it because it does not fit with our morals. We decided to just come off the market because we wanted to sell to a vegan business.”

The search for new premises is likely to be put on ice until the new year so the pair can focus on their St Benedicts Street restaurant The Tipsy Vegan, which opened last year, through the busy Christmas period.

Miss Mullenger said they would also continue to cater for events where opportunities arose.

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