They opened their first store in 2005, choosing the popular Soho area, after spending a couple of years testing their product and brand. Fast forward a decade since the eureka moment and here they are today with four branches across London, a delivery service in the capital and a recently-launched recipe book.
So how do you go from university students to successful entrepreneurs? Well it isn’t as simple as creating a brand that wasn’t available at the time. For co-founder Christian, it’s been a process of hard work, patience and perseverance as Hummus Bros has grown at a rapid pace.
But they’re certainly reaping the rewards and we wanted to find out more. Sitting down in their newly rebranded Soho branch, we quizzed Christian on everything hummus, business and brand image.
At the time when we were at university, hummus was a cheap, healthy and convenient snack. It’s good for you, it fills you up and as students we were loving it. We had done a few projects together at university, we had complimentary skills so thought it would be great to do something together. We both had a love for the food.
Although Middle Eastern cuisine was starting to get popular, there weren’t many people selling hummus. There were a few independent stores but there wasn’t a specific brand. Everyone can eat hummus, whether you’re a vegetarian, gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, nut allergy - you can eat hummus.
Yeah I’d say so. My grandfather ran his own business but a good friend of mine that I met on holiday was running his own business and I went to work with him in Paris at one point. That made me really think and made me realise I wanted to set up my own business.
But at the time I never knew what or how - but the one thing I had passion for and knew about was hummus. So myself and Ronen started doing markets around London where we would go and just give it away to start because we thought it was crazy that nobody was doing it.
We did a lot of research on that. We had the basics like knowing it had chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, sometimes garlic, but there was still a lot do find out. We did loads of research and experimented a lot.
We started picking out plenty of mistakes out early on, which is less costly than doing it when you’ve got the shop. And now we can proudly sit here today with four locations and a recipe book that has just launched.
We knew the interest in hummus was there because whenever you go to the supermarket the person in front of you or the person behind you had a pot of hummus. But in terms of interest in hummus as a main course and then have different toppings, we didn't.
We weren’t convinced of that. That’s why we tested the product at markets so we could make sure. How did people feel about it? Was there really, real interest around it? All business is about trial and error. It is about having an idea, going to try it out, and seeing if it’s successful or not. So you’ve got to be willing and ready for change.
It makes or breaks you as a business doesn’t it? We learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes along the way too. For example, we expected people to order from the counter in the evening when really the wanted us to serve them at the table. We realised these types of things early on so we were able to make the change immediately.
But the first year went really well. If it hadn’t gone like that, I think we wouldn’t be here today. It was important not to grow too quick and not to jump between one store and two. We always wanted to make sure we grow at the right time.
We have the best of both worlds here because we’re right off Oxford Street and Regent Street. Although the competition is high, I think it’s a good thing that you have loads of restaurants on Wardour Street. People are coming here expecting to eat food.
I prefer being in a place where there are lots of restaurants rather than a place where you are the only one. It means people are walking saying, “Okay, let’s go out for dinner tonight.” And they’ll be like, let’s go to Wardour Street, we’ll find something there. Then they’ll walk down the street and then they’ll see something and say, “Oh that looks good, let’s go there” like Hummus Bros!
It was only done two weeks ago but it’s a lot grown up. I always felt our food was very high protein as far as the freshness and the quality, in terms of the value for money, we were very good at that. But the brand did not convey that. And the problem is people shop, and people decide on the restaurant based on the appearance, based on the look and the branding.
The new look is more reflective of quality. It’s all about proper healthy food. We know a lot about food. If someone walks in and is gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, a vegan or wants to eat something specific, we’re able to cater to that dietary.
At different stages of business we’ve had different obstacles, as I’m sure most do. Figuring out how to hire the right staff is a very big challenge. Creating the right culture, having the right people working for you. Also finding good properties in this city is super hard, very expensive and very challenging.
The food is critical - it has to be good food otherwise it wouldn’t sell - but it’s the experience and the staff have to be right. But ultimately, what you’re building is the brand and one that stands for something.
When people see Hummus Bros, we want them to perceive our values and see what we are. The decision to do the recipe book is critical to that. They’ve given us the first copy and I’ve been taking it to all these meetings and it makes a big difference when you show up with the book. Suddenly people realise we’re serious. It really gives credibility to the business and that’s in the name.
Running a business is great fun. There’s good days and bad days. There’s challenges and there’s days when you had an idea that you wanted something to happen but it doesn’t. But there’s other days when something works out and it’s great.