Stuart Cook, former CEO of Australian Mexican fast food chain Zambrero, has launched a 100 percent plant-based venue. Flave will be the first of 1,000 planned locations to be opened over the next 10 years.
Stuart Cook and his wife Samantha, who is part of the management team, converted to plant-based eating after a health scare. Making the switch to an animal-free diet, they spotted a gap in the casual restaurant market after struggling to locate convenient and nutritious vegan food.
As CEO of Zambrero, Stuart increased revenue from $1.1 million to more than $75 million per year. He increased the footprint of the chain from two to 100 locations. Samantha brings team management and relationship skills from her work as a non-profit CEO. Together, the Australian couple wants to bring plant-based nutrition to as many consumers as possible in the form of a fast service restaurant.
The final piece of the puzzle
To make Flave restaurant a reality, the right frontline staff needed to be found, which is how Scott Findlay came on board as executive chef. A Bondi local, he trained under Gordon Ramsey before developing his own plant-based skills. He has worked for multiple celebrities, including longstanding meat-free advocate Sir Paul McCartney. He developed a menu centred around nutrition, taste, and affordability for Flave. Locally sourced ingredients are being showcased throughout with an emphasis on clean production.
Signature dishes include the Epic Flave – Ultimate Cheeseburger featuring a smashed patty, bacon, BBQ-smoked brisket and crunchy onion rings, and the So Su Me Bowl – Tokyo Tartare Sushi Bowl, which contains tuna tartare and crunchy vegetables finished with miso ponzu dressing.
Tapping into the plant-based lifestyle
The restaurant opened on December 7 as a fast service casual outlet that requires no advance booking. Styled to invoke the nostalgia of retro American diners, the location is bright, colourful and unpretentious. It is designed to highlight the laid-back nature of the Australian lifestyle. If Flave proves to be a local success story, it will provide a blueprint for global expansion. Cook and his wife have already announced plans to open a total of 1,000 restaurants worldwide within the next decade. This will be in various formats including company-owned territories, franchises, cloud-kitchens, and outposts.
In preparation for growth, Cook has tapped longtime F&B professionals to join Flave’s board such as Jessica Gleeson, an operations expert with Starbucks expansion experience under her belt and Harry Debney, former CEO of the Visy and Costa Group, who has been appointed chairman.
Riding a wave
The Flave launch comes at an exciting time for Australia. Plant-based initiatives are being embraced throughout the country, there is a consumer shift in motion. As an example, Wide Open Agriculture just announced it has secured $20 million for domestic low-carbon oat milk production. This comes despite conventional dairy being the country’s fourth-largest industry.
In response to a rise in plant-based eating, Australia’s big meat industry has suggested that consumers are mistakenly eating animal-free food. A survey, paid for by a coalition of meat, poultry and seafood bodies was used in support of the argument. It was later widely discredited by a Food Frontier report that found the majority of plant-based food was clearly and correctly labelled and was not designed to dupe consumers.
All images courtesy of Flave.