Today we’d like to introduce you to Lori Zito.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Choices was birthed as a labor of love and passion by founder Alex Cuevas and his brother Jorge. Both had been vegan for over 20 years, and they had a dream of one day opening a vegan cafe that would allow even the most skeptical foodies to try and fall in love with plant-based foods. They chose Miami to plant their roots because plant-based awareness was sorely lacking here, and they wanted to open their business in a city where they could make the greatest impact. ,
At the core of their mission was – and remains- the reduction of animal suffering.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When Choices first opened in 2011, there was a lack of plant-based food knowledge in Miami. We had to educate our guests in order to change their perceptions of plant-based food. We also had to work with many organic food vendors to get organic, plant-based items delivered down to Miami, as there wasn’t much demand for these items at that time.
But our ultimate obstacle was the loss of our first location. It was located just outside of Brickell, and after 3 years it was thriving and had a loyal and supportive customer base.
However, our landlord decided to sell the building to developers – and in 2014 were forced to leave, and the building was demolished. We had to frantically search for another location, otherwise our dream would cease to exist. We have opened 5 additional locations since then, but due to high commercial rent in Miami, none of the subsequent cafes have been in locations as desirable as the first one, and thus our business has suffered.
We have also struggled with balancing our decision to serve organic food and use eco-friendly products, with our guests concerns of pricing. Organic foods and eco-friendly products make our costs much higher than typical restaurants. As such, our margins are much smaller, and we have to be diligent in educating our guests of the value of what they are getting – and what they are supporting – when they dine with us.
Choices Cafe – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are a 100% plant-based restaurant that is dedicated to the reduction of animal suffering. By serving plant-based food that tastes delicious, we hope to break the stereotypes of vegan food, and open people’s consciousness to a gentler way of living.
We like to call it ‘teaching through taste-buds’.
Our food is made in-house so that we can control the ingredients that go into, and ensure that what we serve our guests is of the highest quality. We offer options that range from fully raw, to gluten free, to comfort foods such as mac n cheese, burgers and quesadillas.
Above all, we pride ourselves on everything we serve tasting delicious, while at the same time being cruelty-free. We offer custom-built bowls and wraps, and encourage our guests to BE CHOOSY when they dine with us…hence our name – Choices Cafe!
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Every time a guest comes in and is skeptical of plant-based foods, and then comes back up after their meal to tell us they loved the food, we are so honored!
We are also extremely grateful when guests tell us that they shifted to a plant-based diet because they discovered this way of eating through Choices.
We are proud for every drop of influence that we are able to create in this ocean of change!
- Be Choosy Custom Bowls and Wraps – $9.50
- Mac n Cheddy – $3 or $8
- Peanut Butter Brownie – $3.75
- Website: www.choicescafe.com
- Phone: Coconut Grove: 305-569-4300 Upper East Side: 786-803-8352
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/choicescafe/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/mychoicescafe
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChoicesCafe
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/choices-cafe-miami-3 and https://www.yelp.com/biz/choices-cafe-coconut-grove-miami