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Jessica Kruger: "I saw a gap in the market for something I was passionate about, so I went for it"

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Jessica Kruger: "I saw a gap in the market for something I was passionate about, so I went for it"

Feeling frustrated about the lack of good vegan choices in restaurants, Jessica Kruger solved the problem by opening up a restaurant of her own.

It's quite an achievement for a 27-year-old to have their own business let alone making the bold choice of opening up a restaurant that some would say is niche, and in Oxford Circus to boot. Keeping up with the growing trend of gluten free, dairy free and vegan, it looks like ETHOS, with it's pay by weight, buffet style dining could be a winner. We found out more about the the brains behind the operation.

Have you always had a love for food?

Yes! When we were growing up, my sister, my Dad and I each had our turn to make dinner one night of the week so that Mum didn’t always have to cook. It taught us about preparing and respecting our food from a young age. I also have very fond memories of cooking and baking from my first cook book, imaginatively called “My learn to cook book”!

How long have you been vegetarian and why did you make that decision?

Around two and half years. The decision was one based purely on ethics. I watched a documentary about factory farming and that was it. It made me cry and then it made me angry. I stopped eating meat one hour to another. I just could not be complicit in such a horrible industry.

What do you consider are the benefits of a plant-based diet?

I think there are a number of health benefits, you have a much lighter impact on the planet and it’s just a much kinder way to live, given what horrible things go on with our food behind closed doors. So all in all, it’s a win-win in my mind!

Why did you decide to open a restaurant?

Eating out as a vegetarian, let alone a vegan is pretty frustrating. You’ll pretty much always be offered either a risotto or a goats cheese salad. Cooking for myself at home I was finding so many wonderful meat-free recipes and thought – "but why can’t anyone cook this in their restaurant.” Essentially I saw a gap in the market for something I was passionate about, so I went for it.

What challenges have you faced with the project?

Staff has been the biggest challenge. People are the core of your business, so every single thing revolves around them. It’s tough motivating them to keep to your standards, keeping morale up when budgets are stretched. I’m still learning how to try to inspire people to give their best.

What has the reaction been from your customers?

Really, really positive. Some people walk in and gasp at the food and you can see how excited they are to have such a beautiful array of choices. People are excited to find new options that are not the run of the mill dishes you find in a lot of restaurants. 

Do you cater to vegans too?
Yes indeed. It’s one of the first things we discuss when trialling a new dish. "Is it vegan?" And the next question is always – "is it gluten free?"

Do you think it's hard setting up a business as a women?

I think it’s hard setting up a business full stop. It takes immense levels of hard work and dedication and perseverance. Rather than it being down to gender, I think what predicts success in business is determination and the ability to be a self-starter. To never give up. One of my favourite quotes is “it’s hard to beat someone who never gives up”.

What are your plans for the future?

To grow Ethos in to a successful brand that gets people excited about, and eating more meat-free food!

What is your guilty pleasure food wise?

Hmmm… always something sweet! I think caramel is the best indulgence in the world, so anything oozing caramel.

Do you have any advice of budding entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with people who you trust and respect and who are experts in their field. Draw on their knowledge and find a mentor (or two!). Never give up. Do lots and lots of research so you know your market and your product inside out.

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