Eating vegetarian in Kingston

Kingston offers a plethora of restaurants for food-enthusiasts to enjoy, however, the provision of restaurants devoted solely to vegetarians in the area is less appetising.

In Kingston, Riverside Vegetaria stands alone as the only vegetarian restaurant, which is officially approved by the Vegetarian Society. Ritchie Sakthivel, owner of Riverside Vegetaria, set up the restaurant in 1989, with no previous experience of the industry.

His business venture was prompted by a spiritual visit to India where he re-discovered his vegetarian roots. This year, the restaurant is celebrating almost 23 years of successful business, which as Mr Sakthivel acknowledges, is quite an achievement.

Mr Sakthivel said: “More and more vegetarian restaurants are opening around the country but it is a question of how long they all last.” Both Surbiton and Richmond have seen vegetarian restaurants come and go over the years but Riverside Vegetaria has managed to maintain its position in the area.

Martin Lake, from Kingston and Richmond Vegetarians, said the group make regular visits to Riverside Vegetaria and always have their Christmas meal there.

But with vegetarians making up less than six per cent of the population, there is a considerably smaller market for vegetarian restaurants. Mr Sakthivel knows this all too well. He was forced to close his previous vegetarian restaurant in Croydon after accepting it was not the right place.

However, despite the smaller market in vegetarian food, Mr Sakthivel believes that Riverside Vegetaria has stood the test of time by appealing to both vegetarians and meat-eaters. In a recent survey conducted by Mr Sakthivel he found that almost 25 per cent of his 250 customers were not vegetarians.

Mr Sakthivel maintains that his clever grasp of marketing keeps the business level, by offering two for one deals, early evening offers and loyalty cards to many of Riverside Vegeteria’s regular customers. Yet, since the economic downturn in 2007 the restaurant has lost 20 per cent of its business. 

A former engineering student at Kingston, Mr Sakthivel, completed his MBA four years ago and has plans to diversify into a range of healthy ready meals. He believes there is a need for healthy ready to eat meals and his range will be available in local health shops from January 2012.

To read more on vegetarian and vegan eating, see “World vegan day kick starts month long campaign,” and “Vegan Week experience.”

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