Vegan deli and café Vegan Canteen will soon open in Val-David, QC. The eatery will offer its employees fair wages that are double the province’s hourly minimum wage as well as enforce a no-tipping policy to avoid issues with fair tip distribution among workers. Its menu will feature a rotating list of handcrafted vegan deli sandwiches such as Bourbon and Maple Bacon Jam Grilled Cheese with cashew smoked cheddar, pastrami, and Montreal-Style Smoked Meat. Vegan Canteen began as a meal-delivery service two years ago, offering small-batch vegan meats such as ribs, steak, and pulled chicken; aged cheeses; and ready-made meals for delivery in Montreal and Ottawa (and Toronto in the coming months). Owner Sophie Banks worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years as a man and then as a trans woman, and coming out gave her a unique perspective into how the industry treats people differently, particularly when it comes to the practice of tipping and the uneven distribution of that tip bounty. “What needs to change? First would be the low wages, then probably the hours—the long weeks, all weekends, late nights,” Banks told VegNews. “The industry needs to change and adapt if it wants to draw in new talent and keep people.” With Vegan Canteen, Banks aims to encourage fairness, teamwork, and inclusiveness within the industry, which she feels isn’t always a healthy environment, particularly for women and LGBTQ people who want to pursue careers as chefs. As she expands her business, Banks is also looking to bring her vegan meats and cheeses into the retail sector. “But part of me also loves being able to offer a more small-crafted, local approach to my vegan creations,” Banks said. “Knowing the person making your food [and] knowing that we are using whole ingredients and supporting local farms. Perhaps these days it’s about seeing what evolves organically.”
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