Jessica Kruger: On Founding Ethos

From frustration to fruition, Jessica Kruger’s journey from meat-free foodie to founder of one of London’s premier vegan destinations, has been a steep learning curve. But with an abundance of passion, a strong ethical code and a desire to grow, the young entrepreneur has created a brand that’s flipping the script when it comes to vegan fare.

We sat down with the 26-year-old founder of Ethos to discover why, sometimes turning your misery into your motivation is the only stimulus you need. But it doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with inspirational people along the way.

At 26, you own and run a restaurant in central London; quite incredible really… can you share a bit about your background? 

I grew up in Australia and moved to Europe 6 years ago when I was 20. I moved to the UK 2 years ago to set up Ethos. My background is not in food – rather I’m a foodie who has seen the light and jumped industries.

Prior to starting Ethos I completed my MBA and worked in advertising and consulting.

What inspired Ethos and have you always had a passion for healthy living?

About two and half years ago I chose to follow a plant-based diet for ethical reasons. I created Ethos because I was so, so frustrated with the lack of interesting and creative meat-free food that I was coming across. I love dining out and trying new exciting restaurants but I found myself being able to eat about one thing on the menu (usually risotto or salad) and just finding that I was always having miserable food experiences.

The way I live my life now is very much motivated by ethics, but the health benefits and my interest in healthy eating have grown equally alongside. Nutrition is a fascinating subject.

What do you think is driving the wellness industry in London?

Gosh! That’s a tough one to answer. I think the factors are diverse but I would nonetheless put a great deal down to social media, which has made wellness more “accessible” than ever before. It’s easy to get caught up in it if you are constantly seeing images of beautiful looking healthy dishes, people exercising and practising yoga etc. Wellness is really cool these days, so that makes more and more people attracted to it.

Founder of Ethos Jessica Kruger explains how she got started
Image: Ethos Restaurant

How have you positioned Ethos in a very competitive market for cafes and restaurants?

Ethos is quite different to most restaurants and cafés, so this means we really do have a point of difference. We’re a pay-by-weight concept and we’re self-service. So this means that our customers have a very real choice and no restrictions on how they build their meal. We allow the customer to choose exactly which dishes they want and in what portion. You could take literarily 20 different dishes on one plate if you wanted! From the customers I talk to, they really like this flexibility, so this helps us distinguish ourselves in the market.

What about the location? Did you see a geographical gap for a healthy eatery?

In some ways, yes. There are neighbourhoods that I think have a lot of synergy with healthy eating – namely more affluent areas or more “alternative” trendy areas. Places with high foot fall, such as in the West End of London, are also ideal places for a healthy eatery. We chose the West End for footfall.

What underpins the brand philosophy and how do you approach business as a young entrepreneur?

Our brand is founded on four core values: Amazing, innovative & creative food; Exceeding expectations; Teamwork; and “Hate waste”. Ethos is all about showcasing really amazing and exciting meat-free food. Things you can’t find anywhere else in London. Flavour is number one.

My approach to business is to surround myself with the best possible team around me. As a young entrepreneur I am aware of my shortcomings, so I hire people who are better than me in different areas. Also, there’s a lot I need to personally attend to daily however I ensure I spend time with my team each day, walking around, talking to team members at all levels. It’s amazing the insight you can glean in to your own company by spending time like this.

What have been the greatest challenges in seeing this project come to life?

Finding the right team has been a big challenge. And then once you find the right people, inducting them in to the culture at Ethos and ensuring they understand the brand and our values and mission. Motivating people to give their best is a constant challenge. I’ve managed a team this large before, so it’s been a very steep learning curve.

Ethos Restaurant in London opened by Jessica Kruger
Image: Ethos Restaurant

How would you describe your customer profile and has that changed since you opened?

The majority of our customers are young professional women, around 20-35 years old. What’s great is that most of them are not vegetarian but they love our food. We’ve found our customer profile has been quite constant since we opened.

Who is your biggest inspiration in business?

My mentor, Ilse, is amazing. She has taught me so much and always has excellent answers to my questions and is so full of ideas. Great decision maker. She has taught me so much about leadership and one day I’d like to be as “on it” as she is.

Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

My 5 year plan is to be spending my time exclusively as Creative Director of Ethos, developing the company in to a well known and admired Brand. We plan to open many more sites in various shapes and forms, such as a meat-free Tapas restaurant, we want to write a  book, collaborate with other brands on various projects and open a dedicated catering arm of the business. So much to do!

Ethos, 48 Eastcastle St, London W1W 8DX

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner: Mon – Fri 8.30am – 10.00pm, Saturday 11.30am – 10.00pm, Sunday 12noon – 5.00pm

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