This Millennial Wants to Help People Go Vegan and Stay Vegan
For the past three years, Nick Alami and his wife Tyra have been serving the vegan community in the North Tampa area with their deli that provides various plant-based dishes. Before the pandemic, they used to offer packaged organic food products, quick snacks, and other everyday eco-friendly items. But since the outbreak, they have transitioned to a virtual kitchen concept and provide a contactless and cashless experience to their customers.
“What makes us different is that our menu caters to different segments of vegans. We serve people who prefer 100% plant-based food, people who go for mock-meats or transitional meats, and those busy professionals looking out for a quick comfort meal. We have something for every type of vegan – gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, allergy-free, etc. One other thing that we pride ourselves is our meal preparation time. No matter the size of the order, our team is trained to get the meals out of the kitchen in 15 minutes or less. I am not talking about light refreshments, but full meals, like lunch plates and dinner plates. That being said, the majority of our items will be ready in 8 minutes. We live and breathe by our slogan, i.e., Not Fast Food. Fresh Food Served Fast”.
Nick is the owner-operator of ‘Vegan International Co. Kitchen & Market,’ located near the University of South Florida. As a small business owner, Nick works with many locals folks on a day-to-day basis and also provides direct employment to 8 people. He also operates a food truck called ‘The Vegan Halal Cart,’ located in South Tampa. He is also planning to open a new location in Manhattan, New York.
Nick & Tyra
We sat down with Nick for a quick interview –
1. Why do you do what you do?
“I want people to know the truth about food. I want people to know what they are putting inside their bodies and show them that they can still get the same nutrients, even better, even cleaner, from a plant-based diet. If there is anyone considering veganism, I want to help them in their journey and play a role in helping them stay vegan.”
2. What made you come up with this name?
“My wife is the one who actually came up with this name. Both my wife and I were born and raised in New York. She is Puerto Rican and Saudi Arabian, and I’ve my roots in Morocco and Guyana. And our menu is a fusion menu – with influence from Mediterranean, Hispanic, and American. So, it was only fitting to name the restaurant Vegan International Co. All that being said, we use traditional ingredients and recipes passed on by our grandparents. We also make sure the food we serve is prepared like how we cook food at our own homes.”
3. How did you get into this business?
“When I was in New York, I was 310 pounds. I always had a problem with obesity and being overweight. When I moved to Tampa, I had to cook my own food and had my own routine. I was eating chicken & broccoli every night or chicken, beans & rice. But one day, I said to myself, you know what, I am going to college, I am going to attend the University of South Florida. And I cannot be 310 pounds; this isn’t going to look great. ”
“From there, I went on a journey to lose weight. I started hitting the gym six days a week, and I also maintained a journal. I began to notice that whatever I ate, it affected me. I reached a point where I could tell if a particular food that I ate helped me in the gym or if it prevented me from taking bigger weights. My workouts were way better when I had a plant-based diet. I didn’t even do it intentionally. I didn’t even know what the word ‘vegan’ meant at that time. But I was eating sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and bananas and had the best workouts. Overall, I’ve lost 120 pounds to reach my comfortable weight, and I felt so much better.”
“It wasn’t until 2017 that my wife and I stopped eating meat, drinking milk, etc., and decided to go 100% vegan. We started looking in our area for places that serve authentic vegan food, and there weren’t many at that time. We eventually found a location and turned it into a vegan deli, and the rest is pretty much history. ”
4. If you could share one tip with the readers for choosing a vegan restaurant, what would it be?
“If someone is looking for vegan cuisine, I highly recommend they visit restaurants owned and operated by vegans. There is something about the culture and mindset that will strike you. Visit a restaurant where the entire crew is vegan, and you will know the difference.”
“Another thing that I suggest to someone looking for a vegan restaurant would be to keep an eye on online ratings. Take time to read through a few of the reviews to gather people’s opinions before visiting a vegan restaurant in your area.”
5. Have you received any awards or recognition recently?
“Yes, indeed! We received an award from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) this last week. Our drumsticks made it to their list of Top 10 Vegan Wings of 2021!”
“Also, in 2020, Yelp ranked us as the 2nd best restaurant for pick up, take out, and delivery in Tampa. This was just not in the vegan category, but we were ranked number two across all types of restaurants.”
6. What is the best thing that you like about Tampa?
“Coming from New York, where the weather is cold and icy, I like the weather here. And the beaches for sure!”
We did a quick review of Nick’s restaurant on the internet and found out that they have over 350 reviews on Google with an aggregate of 4.8 stars.
One of the reviewers commented:
“My boyfriend and I ate at Vegan International for the first time recently and we had such a wonderful experience. The customer service was outstanding, and those we dealt with were super friendly. Also, the food was AMAZING! We are both vegetarians, so we get very excited when we have *great* veg restaurant options wherever we are. This restaurant is actually one of the best we’ve encountered (and we’ve been to many). We can’t wait for our next meal here!”
Here is another one:
“Amazingness. Great vegan food and great customer service. My kids love eating here. Our transition to veganism has been a struggle but this place makes it so much easier to enjoy vegan food!”
Nick is what we like to call a Local Hero, a self-made entrepreneur who sincerely cares for people and brings real value to his local community. High stands of professionalism and strong work ethics of small business owners like Nick are the infrastructure of Tampa’s economy.
Every dollar that Nick makes goes back to supporting the local business ecosystem and the vegan community. He also supports the Shelter Farm Sanctuary, a not-for-profit animal sanctuary that provides a permanent home for sick, neglected, and unwanted farm animals.
For those of you who are vegans or curious about veganism, Nick and his restaurant should be your first choice. Click here to see their listing or visit their Instagram page at instagram.com/veganinternationalco. We cannot recommend them enough!