23 November 2020
Inspired by the vibrant Australian healthy fast food scene, Jamie Tones has brought the suburban beach vibes back with him to Manchester.
His fresh and colourful plant-based bowls taste delicious and were made in Instagram heaven. His smoothies aren’t half bad either. All delivered to your door within the hour, Bondi Bowls is the new healthy option you need to know about.
What's it all about?
The Bondi Bowls concept is Aussie inspired, plant-based bowls of fresh, delicious food. We offer salad and grain bowls, smoothie bowls for breakfast or dessert and smoothies, all of which are naturally gluten free. You can add extras on top, such as miso salmon and chicken breast. We’re also exploring a meal plan offering because we’ve found that’s very much in demand right now.
My background is in hospitality and fine dining and I’ve always had it in my head that I wanted to start my own business. I went to Australia for a bit of inspiration and I 100% found that in the healthy fast food scene out there. It’s the suburban beach vibe - live healthy, look good, feel good.
Previously I was working to help open up a seafood bar and steakhouse in Newcastle upon Tyne. Every day I would have lunch in the only healthy café around and think to myself, ‘It’s got to be better than this, hasn’t it?’ I was searching for what was possible and I discovered that in Australia.
The aim for me this year was to open a bricks and mortar café around Ancoats or the Northern Quarter but obviously the pandemic has blown that out of the water. That is still the eventual goal but for now we’ve pivoted the business to be delivery only, allowing us to build the brand before opening a premises. I don’t really see Bondi Bowls as a national, online, food prep business only though. I don’t want to have a factory. I want my business to be much more about customer interaction - that’s what I thrive off. The vision is a local store, a nice café with lots of smiling customers. But right now there is an opportunity to broaden what we do and we’ve tailored our offering around the marketplace as it is right now. We make every order fresh and then deliver straight to our customers’ doors across central Manchester.
Building the brand
In order to promote the brand with local people I’ve been doing flyering which has been working great, much better than social media advertising. I tried that for a month, constantly tweaking it but it never really worked too well for me. Then I tried flyering mailboxes and would honestly have to sneak past concierges! Now I’m doing it professionally with Royal Mail and it’s pretty good value. It’s about 6 or 7 pence per address, plus the cost of the flyers obviously. All in all, for the whole of Ancoats, which is about 10,000 addresses, it’s costing around £800.
Selling our food at markets doesn’t really seem to fit but we want to be customer facing so I’ve held some sampling events at the Colony workspace and also Made by Kor, who now stock our breakfast bowls in their gym.
I’ve also just started advertising on screens next to lifts in residential properties. I’m trying different avenues to get into people’s heads. Every time I post on a local Facebook group, I immediately get a few orders but I’ve learned that it’s not the first or second time that people see something that will make them purchase. I flyered the whole of the Green Quarter a while back and didn’t get a single order. I just couldn’t believe it when the response from New Islington and Ancoats had been so good. But I’ve realised that’s because I’d already targeted people in that location through Facebook, then people were talking about us in the groups, the in-person events I’ve done, local advertising etc - it has to be more than just one flier.
What’s in store for you next?
We’ve just released the Bondi Bowls app where customers can earn loyalty points and that’s working well. We’ve just launched two new soups for the winter and we’d also like to get on to Deliveroo. The commission is expensive but you’re accessing a huge marketplace and I believe there’s definitely space on there for our healthy options.
Ultimately though the priority is setting up our own premises, a customer facing spot, I’m still pushing for that. I’m in touch with a couple of places for us to potentially have a residency, that could be the next step. Then depending on the success of that, there’s no reason why we couldn’t have a place on street level. Not massive to begin with but big enough to have some customers able to sit in and enjoy our food.
So far so good?
The customer feedback has been so good that I had real trouble accepting it to begin with. It took me some time to get my head around it, I don’t know why. Maybe because everything I’ve done so far is genuinely my own. Maybe everyone goes through that stage. I see people posting my food on Instagram and it’s just great. Now it’s all about getting the name out there and our products in front of people which of course is the challenge. I’ve actually really enjoyed that side of it though, it’s an opportunity to be creative.
I wanted to create a lifestyle brand and make products that looked beautiful and that people wanted to share across social media and I think I have done that. Every order comes with a Bondi Bowls tote bag and it's been awesome to see so many people out and about with them. Sometimes I actually let myself worry about becoming too busy but when I stop and think about it, that’s stupid, what a fantastic problem to have.
You can order Bondi Bowls via their website or app and they deliver across Manchester city centre within the hour. Opening times are Wednesday to Sunday from 11.30am - 8.30pm.
Interview and images by Christian at Blossom.