Why I will never call Arby’s Vegetarian Support Hotline

In a new campaign, Arby’s decided to address people outside its normal demographic: vegetarians. On June 28, Arby’s released its new Brown Sugar Bacon, and it has recently acknowledged that this must be a torturous temptation for vegetarians everywhere. Or at least, that’s what Arby’s assumed.

In a letter released on July 7, Arby’s shared its decision to help those unfortunate enough to be tempted by its products. With a sarcastically understanding tone, Arby’s made the assumption that all vegetarians secretly crave meat. In this mannered message, Arby’s attempted to appear sympathetic to vegetarians and convince the world of its overpowering desirability all at the same time.

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The message begins: “We respect you, [vegetarians]. We respect your life decisions. With that in mind, we want it to be abundantly clear that this letter is not meant to sway or convert you. We’re sharing this to offer our support.” This is support its offering? Condescension, self-promotion and a “support helpline”?

Don’t get me wrong — I understand the politics of ad campaigns. Arby’s isn’t trying to be outright spiteful, just original with its marketing. There is something ingenious about catering to your consumers by focusing on those who would never step inside your restaurant in a million years. It’s tongue-in-cheek. Harmless. Except when it isn’t.

I have been an official vegetarian for over four years now, and I am perfectly happy. I have never craved bacon, and I will never crave it. I am happy that bacon seems to bring so much joy to people, although I will never understand why. This seemingly lighthearted peer pressure, however, is more pervasive than you’d think. For whatever reason, so many people feel the need to police what other people eat, vegetarians and meat eaters alike. We all make our own choices, and I’d like people to trust that I can make decisions for myself. You might think I need meat to survive, and that’s fine, but until you have taken multiple intensive courses on nutrition and I am asking you for your opinion, please don’t tell me what I’m doing is unhealthy. Just as I will never give you grief for eating meat.

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So let’s practice what Arby’s supposedly preaches: Let’s respect one another’s choices. Eat bacon if you want, or come find me if you want some tofu suggestions that will make you forget you ever liked pork. But again, no judgment here.