The Avocado Show, an all-avocado restaurant in the Netherlands founded by serial entrepreneurs Ron Simpson and Julien Zaal, and supplied by Nature’s Pride, is gearing up to go global this year. PBUK speaks with Simpson to uncover more about the franchising, plus a new line of merchandise.
Located in Amsterdam, The Avocado Show is open seven days a week, offering international dishes built around avocados. The menu is updated four times a year, with many dishes created and styled by local chef Jaimie van Heije.
The restaurant uses up to 500 avocados daily, all of which are sustainably sourced by Dutch importer-distributor Nature’s Pride, which shares Simpson and Zaal’s socially responsible attitude towards people and the environment.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, the restaurant promises to serve diners a spectacular show on their plate. Through social media The Avocado Show has racked up hundreds of millions of views, clicks, likes and shares. Essentially, its Instagram feed has become a menu for the restaurant; motivating people to queue outside on a daily basis.
A hugely popular concept that was devised in less than a week, Simpson states they received 30-40 license requests from around the world before the restaurant even opened on 17 March 2017. In the last six months that figure has risen to 150.
Now the business format has been developed, the team is talking seriously with at least 10-15 markets with a view to opening the first franchise within months.
“We’re aiming to sign the first one this year,” Simpson reveals. “Everyone thinks their city should be first but any reasonably-sized, big city that understands food and the internet could make this work. It’s as easy as that.”
To that end, Simpson and Zaal have partnered with Shawn Harris – the founder of Europe’s biggest exotic fruit and vegetable importer, Nature’s Pride – who in September stepped down from her role as chief executive of the company to focus on new projects.
“We’ve partnered up with the Orange Wings company owned by Shawn,” Simpson reveals. “Shawn has given us the funding to take the concept international, and develop our own line of avocado products. It’s a multi-million investment that opens all the doors for us.”
Harris says her new investment firm Orange Wings plans to invest and coach the best start-ups and scale-ups in order to “give their businesses the wings they need to fly quicker”.
“Only great concepts with high success potential and those that are fun and have lots of energy, plus run by nice people are welcome in the carefully selected group,” Harris tells PBUK.
“I see a great opportunity as investor, coach and board member of The Avocado Show. This formula has a promising future because it’s different and healthy.”
Photo: Marleen Visser
Furthermore, Harris points out that the first restaurant has beaten expectations.
“It’s full all day, everyday, with people waiting outside, even in rainy and windy Holland where people do not like to wait,” she notes. “So, as a business investor, it’s a no brainer.”
Coming from an events and marketing background, neither Simpson nor Zaal have experience with avocados or restauranteering. As such, Simpson recognises that Harris brings a wealth of invaluable skills and contacts to the table.
“Firstly, Shawn knows a thing or two about avocados, their associated problems and who does what in the supply chain, which is very interesting for us,” he says. “Wherever we choose to open a franchise in the world, she will know how to find a good supplier.
“Secondly, we are developing avocado products and merchandise, which Shawn can help with because she knows the growers and the main players in the business.
“At the same time, Shawn ran a company with 500 people, so she recognises what to look out for and understands how to invest and strategise.”
Although the details have yet to be finalised, any The Avocado Show franchise restaurant will follow certain rules and requirements set by the founders, but there will be creative freedom.
“We have had so much fun doing this, it would be a shame not to allow others to have fun too,” Simpson acknowledges.
For instance, he believes not all the restaurants need to follow exactly the same look beyond branding and colouring. Likewise, franchisees will have the flexibility to choose their breakfast, lunch and dinner menu from a pool of 100 dishes to suit their individual market needs; whether that’s for more vegan or plant-based options, or otherwise.
At the same time, Simpson is working on The Avocado Show-branded merchandising, including: avocado butter, oil, shampoo and moisturiser, among other products.
“That’s what’s cool about this,” notes Simpson. “The internet is not a one-way street – if you’re big on the internet people find you, and they send us recipes and ideas every day. Some of it has been really inspiring and we’re thankful for that.”
The idea for The Avocado Show was inspired by the first time Simpson and Zaal saw the concept of the Ice Bakery by Nutella.
“Everyone understands exactly what they can get there and there are millions of Nutella fans; it’s brilliant,” Simpson says. “We wanted the same simplicity but on a higher level.”
Eager to give the concept a healthier twist too, Simpson and Zaal decided on avocados, despite having no fresh produce experience. That is where their supplier Nature’s Pride comes into play.
“Ron and Julien are great when it comes to creating consumer buzz and taking the popularity of avocados to the next level,” comments Jan Willem Verloop, marketing manager at Nature’s Pride.
“Nature’s Pride, meanwhile, has the in-depth knowledge when it comes to importing, handling and ripening avocados. And thanks to our foodservice partner Smeding, every day The Avocado Show can serve the best quality avocados.”
Verloop says Nature’s Pride was very happy to team up with The Avocado Show because the two businesses complement each other well.
“We share the same passion to show consumers across Europe the versatility of the avocado,” he explains. “Our commitment to sustainability fits well with the ambitions of The Avocado Show too.”
Naturally, the restaurant’s success ultimately comes down to the versatility of avocados for hot, cold, sweet or savoury dishes.
“It’s a very special product,” Simpson affirms. “Firstly, everyone thinks an avocado is a vegetable so it’s unique in its identity problem; it isn’t limited by being perceived as a fruit. People don’t know where to place it and that makes it interesting.”
Moreover, Simpson says avocados take the idea of a mono restaurant to a whole new level.
“The mono restaurant, like a hamburger outlet, is interesting because you don’t know what ingredients you’re getting. But even so, it’s still a hamburger. With avocados, the whole [menu] spectrum is open; it could be pancakes or it could be sushi. So people are curious.”
Indeed, The Avocado Show has demonstrated how positively people can react to a simple, modern idea for a restaurant, according to Simpson.
“You don’t have to stick to the classic models to make things work,” he explains. “We’ve proven that a concept can work as well as a famous chef or a desirable location. People are just wowed.”
At the end of the day, The Avocado Show is more of an experience, Simpson explains.
“It’s self-explanatory but we give our customers way more information than other places,” he continues. “We want people to truly understand our concept, and because of that they are curious about our dishes.”
Thanks to its point of difference, Simpson claims the restaurant is winning over new avocado consumers daily.
“When people use avocados at home or in the office they use it really simply, like on toast,” he points out. “We are combining avocados with all types of flavours and ingredients. I think we’ve flipped a lot of people who thought they didn’t like avos.”
At the same time, Simpson believes The Avocado Show has shined a light on the direct effect that social media can have on business.
“People queue outside our door every day, and that’s very new for Amsterdam,” he claims. “Social media is absolutely driving the business.”
While avocados are unique, Simpson suggests the only other fruit or vegetable that might work for a mono restaurant is the tomato.
“I know someone who opened a mango place but, for me, mango is a very dominant flavour,” he says. “Equally, you cannot open a blueberry or banana place, because it just wouldn’t work.
“Done properly, I think you could do it with tomatoes because there are lots of ways to prepare a tomato; from gazpacho and salads, to roasted or sun-dried.”
Ron Simpson will be talking about The Avocado Show and its future plans at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference 2017.
The event takes place at the Westergasfabriek on 15-17 November.
Register online here now.
Or contact us here to book a booth.