Black-owned soul food restaurant Souley Vegan is expanding to three new locations and two new cities in California.
Souley Vegan—one of the Bay Area’s first vegan soul food restaurants—opened in Oakland in 2006. The restaurant serves Louisiana Creole dishes, including the popular crispy seitan and waffles, okra gumbo, and Southern fried tofu.
The new ghost kitchens, which will offer delivery and takeout only, will open in San Fransico, Los Angeles, and in Oakland over the next two months, occupying spaces owned by Los Angeles-based startup, CloudKitchens.
Like many other restaurants, Souley Vegan experienced a reduction in business due to COVID-19. According to founder and owner Tamearra Dyson, sales dipped by around 70 percent at the start of the pandemic. But since then, the business has boomed.
“Souley Vegan, since the beginning, has been about trying when there hasn’t been any logical way that I was going to make it,” she told the SF Chronicle.
“Quitting, for me, has never been an option,” she added. “If you look now, I went from nothing to three (restaurants) almost overnight. People might say that’s a stupid move, too. I know it’s the right thing for me right now.”
Vegan Demand and Coronavirus
Demand for vegan food has risen during the coronavirus pandemic. Plant-based meat brands including Tofurky, THIS, and Beyond have all reported an increase in sales. Oat milk also went up, as did the sales of plant-based staples including beans, vegetables, and grains.
Black-owned companies have received an outpouring of support following international protests and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Souley Vegan was featured in several guides to Black-owned vegan businesses to support.
The Souley Vegan in Los Angeles opens Saturday at 615 N. Western Ave. While Souley Vegan San Francisco opens in late August at 475 Sixth St. The new Oakland location will debut in September at 2353 E. 12th St.
“When I opened, there was a lot of teaching that had to be done to get people to see vegan soul food as something that was cool,” said Dyson. “I just know I didn’t come this far just to lose. The new locations are our next chapter.”