Founder's Friday: Kieran and Paul - The Duo Behind Australia's Newest Supermeal

Founders of Aussielent, Paul Carpenter and Kieran Grogan Carpenter, never in their wildest dreams anticipated that they would own a powdered meal replacement business; but with engineering and architectural backgrounds, it was no surprise that the pair took well to the idea of a logical, made-to-measure meal concept.

In 2014, shortly after U.S. based meal replacement brand Soylent attracted a $1.5 million crowdfunding campaign, Paul became fascinated with the idea of “complete food”. Soylent wasn’t available in Australia at the time, so Paul looked to begin making his own formulations.

 
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All of the ingredients required were really hard to source, so “all sorts of strange packages began appearing at our door”, Kieran recalls.

What started as a hobby, as Paul shared experimental formulations online, sparked a business idea when people started contacting him asking if they could buy some of his powder.

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Following the release of a number of articles in response to a documentary done by the SBS, featuring Paul and the underground world of powdered food, the business really took off.

“Over 2000 people contacted us in the span of a week, signing up to be in the loop about a potential product launch”. It became clear that there was a larger market ready for Aussielent.

Kieran, using some of her design skills, designed the logo and packaging for the Aussielent brand. Never entirely happy with it, she knew that they just needed to get something out into the market to be able to test its reception first.

The pair started packing the product themselves, lasting all of three weeks, unable to keep up with the volume of orders, before engaging a manufacturer who thought they were nuts when they pitched their idea.

Years later, after a proven track record in the market, the duo felt their branding wasn’t reflecting the level that the business was at and engaged BrandWorks for a rebrand. “We started out as a weird Internet product, and wanted to broaden the appeal to make it less weird and intimidating”, Kieran explained.

BrandWorks took the core elements from the existing brand, utilising them in a new direction to ensure continuity and preserve brand value.

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The existing Aussielent heart-flower brandmark was stripped back to reimagine and neutralise the brand in relation to gender. A punchy tagline, 'Made to Measure Meals' was developed together with Apostrophe to clearly communicate the brand's offering. More than the sum of its parts, the geometric brandmark and secondary system demonstrate the coming together of multiple inputs in a harmonious, efficient, and beautiful system

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The reception has been great. Since the rebrand, sales have increased for both existing and new customers.

“We’re on track for our best month ever. Across the board, our order volume is up and staying up. The benefits of the product have been articulated really well through the work that we did with BrandWorks”, Kieran explains.

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

“Funnily enough, James, our logistics provider, who comes in contact with the product every day rung me up last week and said, “I noticed you guys rebranded. I’m actually thinking I might start using the product now that I’ve seen the website”.

Individuals just like James seem to understand the brand better now. “I think that’s attributable to all of the brand strategy work we did with BrandWorks to really help customers understand what the product is about”.

Aussielent is working on a retail strategy over the coming months, and the new branding has given Kieran the confidence that their products will be able to hold their own on retail shelves.

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A true ecommerce success, Aussielent has surprisingly never spent a dollar on advertising. Now, equipped with their new brand, Kieran is excited to begin attracting a wider market through some marketing spend.

Kieran’s wise advice to budding entrepreneurs:
“Rather than waiting and holding back on your business idea, it’s better to get started. Get something made and get something out there to test the market and see if people want it or not”.

In Kieran and Paul’s case, this bold approach has sure paid off. We’ve got high hopes for the growth of this Aussie-born brand. But for now, we’re singing praises to Kieran and Paul for coming up with a hassle-free supermeal solution.

Visit Aussielent here.

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FOUNDER'S FRIDAY: BAO DOWN - A PORK BUN KING ON A MISSION WITH TAK HING

In 1998, at the back of a small bakery in Braybrook, Victoria, a pork bun empire was quietly born.

Meet Andrew Wong, the steamed bun king, who turned his family’s small wholesale bao business, Tak Hing Food Co., into a mass market phenomenon. 

Andrew joined forces with his father, who was targeting the Asian community with his steam buns, supplying only to restaurants and small Asian grocery stores. Recognising an opportunity to expand into the Western market, Andrew had higher hopes for the Tak Hing brand.

Image Courtesy of Herald Sun

Image Courtesy of Herald Sun

His first step: bring awareness to the bao, a traditional Chinese steamed bun with endless combinations of fillings.

To test its reception in the western market, while preserving his wholesale brand, Wong created Wonderbao, a retail-shop brand with the mission of bringing awareness to the bao.

With no real plan, “I figured if there was demand for it in the western market, I would keep up with expanding the wholesale side of the business”, Wong admitted. Situated right near a uni campus, bao-crazed students from all different backgrounds proved to Andrew that expanding the brand was indeed a good idea.

Andrew quickly returned to his wholesale roots, rebranding the Tak Hing image with the help of BrandWorks who took a fresh approach; retaining the brand’s traditional elements, but adding bright colours to avoid typical Chinese cliché’s and would give the brand a contemporary and fresh feel.

“We rebranded the bag to make it pop more, and people started to notice the product because of its new packaging”, Wong explains. 

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Tak Hing’s new look gained it better positions in mainstream supermarkets and grocery stores. “It was a better looking product, so it was selling better”, Wong says. This allowed the product to attract more premium shelf space in grocery store fridges, an all-around win, resulting in sales doubling for Tak Hing.

A bold and polished brand and packaging, combined with the strategy of boosting the product’s awareness, is really what allowed the product to transition from wholesale to retail.

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To budding entrepreneurs, Andrew’s advice is to, “be obsessed with what you want to do or achieve. Always ask questions, and just get s*** done.” 

Even with the success of both of his brands, Andrew steadily continues on his mission of building awareness about the bao. He often gets asked what he does for a living, to which he replies, “I make pork buns”

“What’s a pork bun?” they ask.

“I want to fix that.”

And at the rate he’s going, we have no doubts that he will.

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THE TOP 5 MUST-HAVES FOR EVERY COMMERCIAL FITOUT

Design for the senses.

Case study after case study shows us that a well-designed space attracts more customers and achieves more sales than a tired looking interior. Often as customers, we don't always pinpoint what it is about a space that makes us want to linger in it a little longer, or spend a little more. What we know is that at its most basic level, this motivation stems from feelings of comfort, aesthetic pleasure, and full sense engagement.

The built space is unique in that it is the one place where all of your five senses are engaged. From the smell of coffee, to tantalising visuals of a food theatre, the touch of a textured menu, ambient music in your ears, and the crunch of something delightful, it is one of the only places where we are able to experience a brand in its entirety. Well-designed interiors directly play to this full engagement of the five senses.

As designers, we've dissected the precise touchpoints that contribute to creating this feeling for customers. Over the years, we've experimented with a little bit of this, and a little bit of that - materials, lighting, finishes, consultants, you name it - to come up with the perfect mix of things that should never be overlooked when designing a commercial fitout. Be it a restaurant, bar, cafe, shop, kiosk, or office, these elements remain as the Top 5. 

To find out how to connect with your customers' senses through interior design, download this guide. Pssst...we're also giving away a list of our favourite suppliers for each must-have. See how your fitout stacks up today!

 
 
 

8 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE SIGNING YOUR RETAIL LEASE

The hard part is over - your concept has been decided, branding is complete, and you've ummed and ahed over locations for a while before finally deciding on where you'd like to set up shop. Chances are if you're like most restaurateurs (unless you have a heap of cash) you will be looking at leasing a site. 

A restaurant lease is arguably one of the most important components of your business. And we'll admit we would be bluffing if we said they were always easy to decipher. Terms like contributions, terms, and CPIs, can be especially overwhelming if this is your first time going about the process. That's why we've put together a guide of 8 Things to Consider Before Signing Your Retail Lease. 

Always do your homework on the site before signing on the dotted line. Consider if the space was previously a restaurant, and if not what Category 1 works are in place or are going to need to be installed. Things like gas supply, grease traps, air conditioning, and core holes can become some of the most expensive components of a fit out if you have to put them in yourself.

Setting up shop can be expensive. Consider asking your future landlord if a contribution can be provided. This could be in the form of a rent free period or cash toward a fit out. A landlord doesn't want their building to remain empty any more than you want to feel ripped off by a lease. See if you can work together to negotiate a deal that benefits both parties.

The most important advice we can give is to seek legal advice before signing any lease, as there are always clauses and provisions that require the professional advice of a solicitor. 

Download the guide to read up on contributions, core works, rental terms, contributions, liquor licenses, bank guarantees, and more! 

 
 
 

THE NEW BREED : JULIEN MOUSSI - THE COMMERCIAL CREATIVE

A MILLION MILES PER HOUR

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It’s been said that a person’s energy can announce them well before you’re formally introduced. A drop into Tinker, newest kid on Northcote’s block, redefined this theory. Met with a bounding enthusiasm, a palpable purpose and intensity. It was a wave we were happy to get on board with, courtesy of one highly animated Julien Moussi.  

Buzzing around the fresh space and he assembles the team for a few quick photos. A little camera shy, Julien’s quick to deflect some of the shots to partner Adam who’s happy to flash a smile, well-oiled from his days in the real estate game. Settling in, we pick the boys’ brains on the new venture and the successes so far.

Julien’s a man on a mission. The 28-year-old founder has opened nine standout hospitality venues in the past four years and although you may not know his name (yet), you definitely know his work.

Tinker Northcote, the most recent addition for the man behind Penta, Age of Sail, Temperance Society and My Other Brother (MOB Espresso) has just opened at 235 High Street and for the East-ender’s first venture in the upper North, it’s looking right at home. The interior space is bright and welcoming. Understated, an overuse of white contrasts cool grey joinery. Against the clean backdrop, a calm blue accent pops. It’s the Tinker blue, lifted from a palette representative of the brand (as defined by the authority Pop & Pac). The compliment, in a seamless marriage between interior and identity, is no coincidence – it’s curated. An indication that proprietor, Julien Moussi, clearly values design and a telling sign that he’s no novice at this café game.

The entrance to their new venture bears the tagline ‘Mischievous Dreamers’ in an affectionate tribute to the founders’ youth. The cheeky adaptation – of a journey between friends – became the inspiration for the brand identity, as articulated by Pop & Pac. 


“You can touch people from afar with the Branding,
whereas people have to be inside first to feel the fit-out”


Partners Julien Moussi, Kristy-Lea Deva, Adam Voscale and Ben Argentino have a long history in life, now extended into business. The collective, alongside “gun” Executive Chef come partner Nicky Campbell form a new breed in the hospitality industry, emerging as more commercially-minded creatives. Despite their median age, the Moussi crew are well-seasoned. Putting in the hard yards they’ve traded hospitality heartache for commercial success without sacrificing the service. 

Exercising both sides of the brain, the team have combined the commercial (tight strategic metrics, finance control and savvy leasing) with the creative. Keeping it tight while supporting their concepts with great design, strong branding and an on-point social media presence they are well on their way to building an empire. It was from humble beginnings. Raised in old school hospitality, Julien was pouring coffees at his family’s Docklands café alongside his four sisters from yay high. 

“It’s funny how it chooses you” he muses, reflecting on the unfortunate (or fortunate) knee reconstruction that decided his fate. The injury forced Julien, then 21, to abandon his career in fitness and think more seriously about hospitality. Finding opportunities in small spaces, Julien started out with coffee contracts at local football grounds. Working hard to save his own capital, 2012 began his café career acquiring Annoying Brother Espresso in Carlton North. From here it was full steam ahead and after the success of his second venue, MOB Espresso, Julien moved from DIY to high design. A great example of which is Penta, by Ritz and Ghougassian, which he opened in 2016. For many of Julien’s ventures it starts with

location and Tinker was no exception. For Julien and ex-agent Adam, real estate is somewhat of a passion so when it comes to new opportunities they don’t shy away from doing their homework.

So what are they looking for? “Everything - density in a suburb. We look for infrastructure, like a Coles a Woolworths, banks, even TAB’s. Wherever there is a multinational, we know that those companies have done their due diligence. If they’re putting a place in, they’ve done their research.” Julien says. Speaking in his native tongue, Adam expands, “As soon as we started looking at this (Tinker), I started going to auctions on Saturdays and looking at the people who were bidding. It’s always going to be the downsizers, young families, it’s (Northcote) a gentrified area.” “If the property market is thriving in a suburb, you know that the people who are buying there are the right people for what we do and so it was a no-brainer for Northcote” Julien explains. It’s a methodical approach, but it’s this analysis that’s reaping the team their return on each investment. Second to location, the team consider the concept’s execution – and how to best optimise for their market and budget. As their first collective venture, Tinker had a soft spot. With such a personal back story, the branding became the priority. “You can touch people from afar with the Branding, whereas people have to be inside first to feel the fit-out” Julien says. This time round the interior was kept low key, with much of the work done by Ben and Adam. Instead of overspending on fancy lighting (although the lighting seems pretty fancy) the team saw the greater value in their Brand investment and entrusted previous collaborators Pop & Pac to bring Tinker to life.


“Hobby and business are very different things, people fall in love
with the idea of doing something, rather than the deal.”


Julien has long invested in design and has a close collaborator in architect Jean-Paul Ghougassian. “I’m very passionate about interior design and architecture,” he says, “Ritz & Ghougassian do all of our design. They’ve done great projects – they’ve got great taste. They’re like-minded, young, enthusiastic – everything we are basically.” 
His commitment to Ghougassian’s work has seen the completion of Collective Espresso & Kitchen, Boss Pizzeria, Legacy, Temperance Society (courtyard), Age of Sail and Penta. And if Penta is anything to go on, the pair don’t mind taking a risk. Constructed from 4800kg of concrete joinery and a wall of stainless steel, we’re sure that’s what Julien’s referring to when he says “we love doing things that are different.”

Spending half an hour with the boys, their ideals on hospitality becomes evident. It’s a simple and effective philosophy, shared with the best in the industry - good coffee, good vibes, good people. “Culture’s very strong. We’re a really young, excited team and we try to make sure 

we invest time in all the crew because they’re obviously an important part to what we do” 
he says. Julien credits strong collaborations in maintaining the momentum. Stressing the importance of getting involved with people who align with your vision. “We want to associate ourselves with staff or business associates that are like-minded. Everyone’s passionate – if you’re going to do something, do it well.” He states.

Each of Julien’s venues carry a familiar vibe. Like the signature soundtrack of 90’s hip hop that follows him from venue to venue, triggering nostalgic smiles in its wake. In an industry built of impacting people positively, it’s no wonder he’s getting ahead. That energy that impacted us on our first meeting (and every subsequent meeting after that) – a passion – contagious and slightly addictive, it’s no surprise the team exude the same inspired air of pure, unabated ambition. Wondering what’s next? If the past is any indication of future plans, we’re confident the next venture for Julien and the team is just on the horizon. It would be advisable to watch this space.


5 Rules in Business according to Julien Moussi

1. It isn’t enough to love it, you have to make it work.

2. It’s not a hobby. It’s a business.

3. Know your numbers.

4. Know how to structure a deal.

5. Surround yourself with the right people.

CHINESE NEW YEAR - FORTUNE FORECAST TRENDS

We always love seeing what's new, upcoming or even just hanging around. Looking to get ahead of the curve? Check out this installment of Minded to check out some of the trends we've spotted that we think will grow through 2017. 

 

CONSIDER THESE 4 THINGS BEFORE NAMING YOUR BRAND

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names" - Proverb

Why its important to nail your brand name:

1. A great brand name improves recognition

Estimates of your brain's memory capacity vary broadly from 1 to 1,000 terabytes. Without getting too neuroscientific here, each one of the memories in the garguntuan hard drive housed inside your noggin is formed by a snyapse, essentially a tiny connection of information between two micronerves of the brain. These synapses are built much greater when the connection between brain cells, aka associations, are strong. This is why when we hear the words Nike, Apple, and Uber, we think of something completely different to their intended meanings. In short, catchy names are just one of the ways to help improve recognition, which translates into better memory storage. 

2. Catchy names win customers

You know that frustrating feeling when you're trying to remember the name of that amazing cafe around the corner, or that delicious new ice cream brand, but can't remember its name, or don't know how to say it? So you end up referring to it as "whatcha-ma-call-it" or simply smoothe over its name to avoid the embarassment of pronouncing it wrong, which doesn't help your friend who's hankering for an ice cream cone, nor does it help you as a brand owner. Word of mouth referrals are the most effective and profitable marketing source out there. But if customers can't remember, or say, the name of your brand, how can they be expected to talk about you?

3. Names get people talking

Your clients, admirers, and future customers want to know, like, and trust you, and they can do this by understanding your story. Your name should tell some kind of story; whether its as simple as being called "Easey's" because your shop is located on Easey Street, or calling yourself "Airbnb" because your business began by using an air mattress on the floor to turn your living room into a bed and breakfast. Your brand name should get people talking, or at least thinking, about its connection to your offering. 

4. Names are emotional and cultural

Just like we all have funny reasons for being drawn to or averse to certain names, like not wanting to name our child Sebastien because of the memories it brings back of the 9-year-old Sebastien in your year 3 class who stole your LEGO, emotional reactions to names are hardwired into us. Believe it or not, those reactions are very real influencers of the way we live our lives. Undoubtedly, a name like "Pop's Malt Shoppe" automatically brings back childhood memories of carefree summer days drinking root beer floats. But names can also take on new meanings in different countries, or have cultural nuances attached to them. Therefore its no suprise that Chevrolet had incredibly poor sales upon the launch of their Nova model automobile in Brazil when they found out that "nova" in Spanish translates to "doesn't go"...Woops. In essence, choose your name wisely, and do your homework to research what it might mean to different people.

 

Just like a good nickname, it can be tough to find a name for your brand that really "sticks". Its important to take time to brainstorm all of the different ways to look at your brand, and how this might implicate customers. If you already have a name but you feel like its not doing much for you anymore, its always possible to reinvent yourself as something else, especially with the help of a branding facelift. A great strategy for coming up with that name that just feels right is approaching your brand using a nametree. We've put together the following naming exercise to help you find something that sticks. You can download it here:

 

 
 

IN PURSUIT OF THE STEAK SANDWICH - ONE MAN'S DREAM TO BRING BACK AN AUSSIE ICON

An interview with Dean Sholl, traditionalist and founder of Empire Steak, on his mission to bring back the steak sandwich. 

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"It's steak in a sandwich not a steak sandwich."

After 20 years in the industry, having been around since the early days of The Pound Café, Empire Steak founder and traditionalist Dean Sholl chats to BrandWorks about Polly Waffles and the importance of being on trend. And yet here we find him, ahead of the curve.

The Empire Steak menu, which includes the Anti-Steak (Panko crumb, polenta flour mushroom), spent decades in percolation and a solid seven months’ refinement in a dedicated test kitchen. Sholl’s innovative steak cooking technique took another four years to get right. The result? It’s seriously out of this world.

On the brand

BW.  Tell us about the birth of Empire Steak.

D. I had a real strong vision of what it needed to be – it had to be authentic. By virtue of really setting up our values and having a solid understanding of what our personality was, it allowed us to navigate and deflect what was on trend. We love what we do, and we know who we are. By ticking off our values, our choices became simple. Our values of authenticity and timelessness remain very inclusive. I think we can all feel when something is authentic – you get a sense for it, you can taste it immediately.

 

On the menu

BW. Well, we’re finding it delicious! What about doing something premium in a fast paced environment? Do you have secret cooking techniques…?

D. We have such a high quality product – our product is 100% grass fed and 100% free range. We use a premium cut as well – a porterhouse – so that’s already half the battle. And I’ve worked out a way to cook it that allows for complete consistency…

BW. Is it a secret?

D. (Laughs) I really don’t want to give it away, we spent a lot of time perfecting this! Suffice to say it’s the healthiest, most environmentally friendly way to do it. 

BW. And effective.

D. Exactly. Like, our longest wait time is 8 minutes.

 

On produce

BW. Do you use locally sourced produce?

D. From Coldstream, Yarra Valley. We look at all our suppliers as partners, and it’s been great. They get it and they understand what we’re trying to do. They’re just as excited as us to be behind it!

 

On the future

BW. What’s next for Empire Steak?

D. We’re looking at another store in the city and one in South Yarra.

BW. How’s the journey so far?

D. We’re really excited to launch something that is truly Australian, something that we can really be proud of. We’re finding that customers are really responding to us!

 

Empire Steak is located at 61 Little Collins St. Melbourne

Mon - Fri 11am - 8pm

 

More about Empire Steak here...

'STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS' - 5 Tips from those who’ve been there:

With the new year on our doorstep, have you made the resolution that you will do what you love? Will 2016 be the year to start your own business, call the shots and live your passion day to day? Before you take the plunge, have a read about how four ordinary people made 2015 the year they brought their idea and passion to market and achieved amazing success. 

The Original Chai Co.

Gauri Vohra and Apoorv Sahani missed the traditional Indian chai that they grew up with when they moved to Melbourne. After making some for themselves at home, they realised there was a gap in the market, for a real traditional chai where the spices are ground and kept separately from the tea leaves and decided to sell their chai, starting their retail days at the Queen Victoria Market. In 2015, The Original Chai Co. got a little rebrand, some shiny new tins and branched out into online retail and sold out of product before the Christmas!

Gauri: Listen to the experienced, no matter how innovative or out of the box their ideas are; as a new business owner, one can learn and plan around the mistakes and suggestions made. 

Apoorv: Surround yourself with a great team, that works with you on every level

So 9

This year, So 9, a design-led Vietnamese eatery, opened up in Waterloo, a suburb transforming from an industrial park to chic suburb. So 9 features family style, authentic flavours, with stations throughout the restaurant where you can see the different types of food being made, in a refined, yet welcoming Scandinavian aesthetic.  So9 was listed in the Fave 5 new restaurants for 2015 by Urban List.

Kim Tran: Love what you do. Keep your goals realistic and expect to work hard. 

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Cocofix

The mission is simple, bring 100% natural and fresh coconuts to everyone, wherever and whenever they need them. We’ve tried them ourselves, they’re simply some of the best drinking coconuts we’ve ever had (and we don’t say that lightly). Whilst Cocofix coconuts have started appearing on fruit stands around town, in 2016 expect a subscription delivery service and Cocobikes delivering the goodness at the beach and at festivals.

Steve Wilson: Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Think big and be brave!

Delhi Streets

Delhi Streets brought flavour filled, accessible and fun Indian food to the Archway in the CBD, from freshly made naan bread, to curry platters giving you a taste of everything. From opening, Delhi Streets has been well received, and was awarded The Age Good Food Cheap Eats Award for 2015; showing that Indian food can be relevant and fun. 

Charan Singh: Follow your passion, not the money! If you’re happy doing what you love, money will follow you. You will make mistakes, but if you learn from them, you’ll never fail!  

Make 2016 the year your big idea gets off the ground, click here to see how…

5 Outstanding Hotel Restaurants

As we enter the holiday season and end of year break, many of us look to get away for a little while to rest and recoup before the upcoming year. Whether it be travelling around locally, heading interstate or overseas we find ourselves making use of hotels and encountering the inevitability of hotel dining.

Gone are the times, however, where hotel dining meant a trio of dips in the lobby or a tough room service steak. Some of the best hotel restaurants on offer are working hard to shake off the old perception of what a hotel restaurant can be, with beautifully designed spaces and awesome cuisine. Here are some of our favourites, locally, interstate and overseas: 

Mezzanine Breakfast Bar

Alex Hotel, Perth

Image Courtesy of Alex Hotel

Image Courtesy of Alex Hotel

Northbridge’s boutique Alex Hotel boasts a number of fantastic communal spaces including a lounge, espresso bar, roof terrace and wine and dining room. However, it is their Mezzanine Breakfast Bar that is the real star. With pastel ceramics, modern wooden furniture, and floor to ceiling windows which flood the space with natural light; it’s a stunner. We love enjoying a hearty continental breakfast with fresh baked goodies to start our day here.  

Clyde Common

Ace Hotel, Portland

Image Courtesy of Avila/EPDX

Image Courtesy of Avila/EPDX

Located on the ground floor of Portland’s Ace Hotel, Clyde Common is a modern European style tavern, opened by Nate Tilden and Matt Piacentini in 2007. The Clyde Common features cuisine inspired by Europe, with hearty meat dishes such as duck, beef heart and venison. With refined wood furnishing, leather couches and warm lighting, the space is inviting and relaxed; but the real centrepiece is the award winning bar with fantastic cocktails and a specially curated wine list. A favourite with locals and visitors alike. 

Circa

The Prince, Melbourne

Image Courtesy of Taste of Melbourne

Image Courtesy of Taste of Melbourne

Located in St. Kilda, a little closer to home, The Prince Hotel’s Circa features a restaurant and bar that are an education in beautiful minimal design. The bar in particular features a naturally lit atrium with a botanical installation, bringing the outside, inside. Head chef Ashley Hicks has created a menu which is seasonally informed, with a focus on fresh local produce. Whether you need a sit down meal or just want a drink at the bar, Circa is a must visit. 

L.A. Chapter

Ace Hotel, Los Angeles

Image Courtesy of Bon Appétit

Image Courtesy of Bon Appétit

The second feature from Ace Hotel’s on our list comes from their Los Angeles location and the carefully cultivated brasserie that is L.A. Chapter. Partnering with Jud Mongell and Ken Addington, of Brooklyns Five Leaves and Nights and Weekends, the menu takes a mostly european angle with exotic twists, focussing on locally sourced vegetables and seafood. The design is an eclectic mix of colours and textures with chequered flooring, tiled and stone walls, suede couches and a sheet metal bar. 

Bills

Adina Hotel, Sydney

Image Courtesy of Mademoiselle In Sydney

Image Courtesy of Mademoiselle In Sydney

Bills second location opened in 1996 under the Adina Hotel in Surry Hills, and continues to be the benchmark of a great hotel dining space and cafe. Opened by chef and personality Bill Granger, the renowned breakfast menu draws both locals and visitors with their popular scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes. The design is light filled and lively with bright colours, wood furnishings and an open kitchen. From pick up coffee and juices on the go, to sit down brunches and business lunches, there’s something for everyone here. 

 

Convenience IS the New Premium

Convenience: the state of being able to proceed with something without difficulty.

 

Do you ever wonder why 7-Eleven charge so much for basic groceries and toiletries? Or why supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths sometimes have take-away food outlets inside them? Or how valet parking is a profitable business? The simple answer is convenience.

 

Convenience is the reason that we are willing to pay $4 (FOUR DOLLARS!) for a small bottle of water at a vending machine. It is also the only plausible reason for paying to take the fast lane at a theme park. Convenience has always been valuable to consumers, but now more than ever, companies are adapting to consumer needs, and taking advantage of the convenience premium – that extra little bit that they can charge because their product is less difficult to get and use.

 

Convenience is a particularly pertinent topic around this time of year. As we all feel the approach of silly season, it becomes increasingly attractive to be able to conveniently and easily buy what you need (want). Need to shop for Christmas presents? Do it online, at home in your PJs. Want to look for somewhere to meet up with friends and family during the holidays? Google it, at home in your PJs. Want to compare flights for a vacation? Check Webjet, at home in your PJs.

 

The convenience premium isn’t just about looking at things online, at home in your PJs. As the convenience trend grows, all sorts of businesses are trying to make their offerings more easily accessible and easier to use. Here are our 5 favourites:

 

Green Press

Image courtesy of Green Press Instagram (@greenpress.co)

Image courtesy of Green Press Instagram (@greenpress.co)

It’s not always easy to eat healthy, purely because it takes time and energy to cook healthy meals and then clean up. Green Press takes the hassle out of eating clean, by sending their delicious salads, cold pressed juices, acai bowls and much more directly to your door. Simply order before 11:30am and they will deliver it to anywhere within the Melbourne 'Free Tram' zone by 1pm. Too easy.

 

Dashlocker

Image courtesy of Enthasis Design Group

Image courtesy of Enthasis Design Group

Coming out of New York, Dashlocker is the all-encompassing locker that looks after (almost) all of your needs. You can simply put your suits for dry cleaning, clothes for laundry, and shoes for shoe shining in the Dashlocker at any hour of the day, and they will come back squeaky clean (or shiny). You can even send your mail to a locker! The convenience doesn’t stop there though; you can sign up for Dashlocker for free online with the tap of a button.

 

Homeplus Virtual Stores

Image courtesy of 5minutemarketing.com

Image courtesy of 5minutemarketing.com

Tesco’s South Korean leg, Homeplus, uses virtual stores to take the hassle out of grocery shopping. These virtual stores are set up along the walls in train stations, where customers can use their smartphone to quickly pick out their groceries on the way home from work. By the time they arrive at home, their purchase is already waiting for them.

 

Hello Alfred

Image courtesy of helloalfred.com

Image courtesy of helloalfred.com

Hello Alfred is a butler for those who aren’t filthy rich, but still strive for the luxury of not having to lift a finger. Your personal ‘Alfred’ will take care of a list of errands that you write for them, freeing up more time for you to do the things you love. Hello Alfred even claims that the more you use the service, the more your ‘Alfred’ will be able to predict what you need and when you need it.

 

Maple

Image courtesy of New York Mag

Image courtesy of New York Mag

Maple is essentially a food delivery service for gourmet meals. It is only available to New Yorkers at the moment, who have a choice of meals from a menu that changes daily, on the whim of some of the best chefs in New York, who work with Maple. This service is all about bringing restaurant quality food into your home, without the hassle of trying to get a table at a fancy restaurant down town.

 

A lot of products and services that really embrace convenience, as a means to creating consumer value, are developed and only available overseas; the time is ripe for Australian companies to follow the lead of Green Press and start developing offerings that make life easier for Australians.

The 5 Most Underrated Burgers in Melbourne

Scroll through the notes on my phone and you’ll find a formidable list of over 50 burger joints, Melbourne and beyond, with a good ninety percent of these ticked off with a burger emoji. My obsession with burgers, and the burger culture of Melbourne, ignited shortly after I returned from the US, ready to see what we could offer up to rival the In-n-Outs and Shake Shacks of the world.

Suffice to say, Melbourne has the goods.

Over the past year and a half, with the help of Instagram and the countless ‘Melbourne’s Best Burgers’ lists (which I constantly feel the need to critique), I’d like to think I’ve gained the credentials to weed out some of the best spots to grab a burger in our fair city. Everyone knows of the big players that constantly deliver the goods -Easey’s, Grand Trailer Park, Dandenong Pavilion- but there are plenty of other places that aren't as well known. Here is my list of 5 underrated places that deserve more credit for their contribution to the great burger culture of Melbourne.

 

Wonky Trolley - Errol Street, North Melbourne

The 3051 (image courtesy of @wonkey_trolley Instagram)

The 3051 (image courtesy of @wonkey_trolley Instagram)

Nestled inside an old Urban Burger chain, this joint deserves way more credit for their extremely consistent burgers. The 3051, repping the North Melbourne postcode, is always a winner, add pickles and jalapeños for that essential extra flavour. 

 

Burger Boy’s - Little Lonsdale Street, CBD

The Classic Burger (image courtesy of @burgerboysmelbourne Instagram)

The Classic Burger (image courtesy of @burgerboysmelbourne Instagram)

Operating out of DejaVu Bar on Little Lonsdale, Burger Boy’s aren’t too widely known, but they should be. Their Classic burger is all you need, with their incredible patties you’ll never leave unsatisfied. Add a side of ridiculously crispy chips to top that off.

 

Lazerpig - Peel Street, Collingwood

The Lazerpig Cheeseburger (image courtesy of @giannicozzi Instagram)

The Lazerpig Cheeseburger (image courtesy of @giannicozzi Instagram)

Lazerpig is known for their amazing wood fired pizzas, and rightly so. But what you wouldn’t expect from this place is an absolutely banging cheeseburger. The Lazerpig Cheeseburger has all the simple ingredients, and with an extra patty and some bacon, with a side of hand cut fries you can’t go wrong for flavour. 

 

The Beer and Burger Bar - Swan Street, Richmond

The Beast (image courtesy of Lime and Tonic Blog)

The Beast (image courtesy of Lime and Tonic Blog)

If you want massive burgers, well-cooked, look no further than this joint. It gets a lot of local love but not near enough recognition in the top lists. The Beast is the pick of the bunch with double beef, cheese and bacon. If you’re feeling super hungry, these guys also do THE DON challenge which involves an insane 2kg+ burger with a massive side of chips.

 

Mr. Scruffs - Smith Street, Collingwood

The Beef Burger (image courtesy of Blame Magazine)

The Beef Burger (image courtesy of Blame Magazine)

Despite not being a burger joint per se, Mr. Scruffs more than holds their own. The Beef Burger is perfectly balanced with all the best ingredients that should hold its own in any Top 10. They also do some crazy things with their Chewsday burger specials if you’re into something more exotic like jalapeño poppers, chilli, brisket and pulled pork.

5 Vietnamese Restaurants with a Twist

One of our favourite cuisines to enjoy here in Melbourne is Vietnamese and, luckily, there are plenty of great places to get a bite locally. What we really love are great Vietnamese eateries with a twist, whether it be an interesting design or just a cool vibe. Here are 5 of our favourites from Melbourne, interstate and abroad:

 

So9, Waterloo

So9, Waterloo (image courtesy of So9 Facebook)

So9, Waterloo (image courtesy of So9 Facebook)

This unique restaurant combines traditional Vietnamese cuisine with modern interior design that divides the space into three stations that specialise in Bahn Mi, Pho and Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancakes). Look out for the beautiful watercolour illustrations by Beth-Emily Gregory throughout the restaurant that really add something special.

Must Try: They’re hard to split, so you’d have to go with the delicious pork Bahn Mi or the crispy Banh Xeo.

 

The Pho Store, Shanghai

The Pho Store, Shanghai (image courtesy of Art of the Menu)

The Pho Store, Shanghai (image courtesy of Art of the Menu)

Eccentric colour and patterns, paper collage designs and neon signs are what the design of this place is all about, making for a vibrant experience. The Pho Store specialises in - what else - but traditional Pho, served in a modern and contemporary setting.

Must Try: The Combination Pho is the winner here. It’s hearty, balanced and well seasoned - exactly what you want from a good Pho.

 

Pho Nom, Melbourne CBD

Pho Nom, Melbourne (image courtesy of Pho Nom)

Pho Nom, Melbourne (image courtesy of Pho Nom)

This joint specialises in ethically sourced hawker-style Vietnamese street food delivered in a fast casual setting. We love the use of colourful street art illustrations offset against the use of brick and cinder blocks to really bring an urban vibe to great Vietnamese street food.

Must Try: As you would expect, the Pho is great, but a real surprise winner are Pho Nom’s amazing rice paper rolls, bursting with freshness and flavour.

 

Paperboy Kitchen, Melbourne CBD

Paperboy Kitchen, Melbourne (image courtesy of Broadsheet)

Paperboy Kitchen, Melbourne (image courtesy of Broadsheet)

Despite its compact size, Paperboy Kitchen packs a punch in terms of design and food. The use of industrial style wood and concrete interior combines seamlessly with vibrant greenery, grocer store decor and an open view kitchen. The serving concept is also a winner, with a number of options available in ‘Roll or Bowl’  - Bahn Mi style or served in a bowl with rice noodles.

Must Try: The Spicy BBQ Pork is great in both roll and bowl form, and the Crispy Fried Chicken is top notch as well.

 

Ho Chi Mama, Melbourne CBD

Ho Chi Mama, Melbourne (image courtesy of Good Food)

Ho Chi Mama, Melbourne (image courtesy of Good Food)

The perfect place for a night out combines urban design, modern Vietnamese and some awesome cocktails from the bar. Neon signs, street art and classic ‘90s hip-hop cranking through the sound system add to the killer vibe. The food meets the mark as well with bahn mi sliders, black sesame ice cream and the innovative ‘phoplings’ (shanghai-style soup dumplings filled with pho).

Must Try: The phoplings are not to be missed, but our pick are the top-notch chicken skewers.

Where To Explore This Weekend - Part 2

When you hear people talking about restaurants and eateries, more often than not they are talking about what’s new or who’s just opened down the street. But what happened to the classics? The stalwarts... the institutions?

We love new concepts, but we also believe that old is gold, and that is why we’ve compiled this list of Melbourne institutions that have survived and thrived in the Melbourne food scene for many years. Take some time this long weekend to check one (or a few) of them out!

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The World's most liveable City

Melbourne is emerging as a city food precinct, which has helped stamp its position as the World's most liveable city. Tucked away in Katherine Place – just off Flinders Lane is a fine example of this. The businesses here are passionate about their craft and dedicated to delivering an experience worth sharing. We take a look inside The Archway to discover what makes this community so special. 

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