Ross brought Halo Burger to Pop Brixton just over two years ago, converting our ground floor restaurant space into a vegan, fast food heaven. Halo Burger is just one example of a long list of businesses at Pop Brixton who have been able to transform our containers into thriving enterprises, while turning a unique vision into a reality.
Ross’ determination and vision coupled with the growing demand for plant based fast food has recently allowed him to expand his business to Shoreditch, Brighton and Bristol. In the midst of all this success, we managed to grab a virtual moment with Halo Burger’s founder to reminisce on where it all began, why he decided to join Pop Brixton, how he transformed his container to reflect his brand vision and to discuss what’s in store for the future.
The restaurant design is a true homage to 1950's American Diners (with a vegan twist of course). How did you decide how you would transform the space when you joined Pop Brixton?
"So we chose metro white tiles which you see in every classic diner and disheveled, rustic white brick work, which is really on trend with current coffee shop culture. It gave the space a bit more character. You go into most fast food spaces now and it's illuminated like a hospital with white lights, they feel too sterile.
The color green is generally banned at Halo Burger, but we did want to have plants. We Installed a fake plant wall to give the space some warmth along with a Instagram friendly neon light. We also have an old school boom box which is a real throwback and feels very nostalgic. The whole space is designed to appeal to non meat eaters too - if they feel nostalgic about the space then they will feel comfortable."
[Image supplied by Halo Burger]
The Halo Burger brand is so iconic. How important did you think branding was and how did you develop it?
"The branding came first - it was the foundation of how we would move forward. The first thing I developed was the logo, for me it needed to resonate with who we are and what we do."
[Photograph by Jack Taylor]
How do you decide on a new dish to introduce to the menu?
"Typically, inspiration comes from the burgers I used to love. The type of burger I used to eat didn’t exist properly in the vegan world, so I wanted to use that as my focus.
But I also ask myself, what would I do better? So I look at all the best vegan ingredients out there in the market at the moment and consider if they fit with the brand. We always want to have a simple menu. We stick to classics with exciting twists like our crispy jalapenos for example."
[Image provided by Halo Burger]
Overall it was clear that the common goal which guided all of Ross’ decisions was to combine the best of classic burger culture with the best of vegan produce. Having left his job with electronic car giant Tesla (before they got big!) to start his own business, he took valuable lessons with him and has used these to inform his approach to growing a successful business today.
Tell us a bit about how you started Halo Burger and what inspired you to start your own business?
"Well, I was a disgruntled vegetarian for years. I am now vegan but even then I was not happy with the lack of fast food options available. There were only bean burgers or kale burgers whenI just wanted a Five Guys! (With no animals of course.) I wanted to eat that food, because I loved it and missed it. This was 2016 and the options were just crap! At the time all vegan and veggie brands were super green, and ‘alternative,’ they didn’t accommodate the idea that I might miss fast food.
I was working for Tesla at the time - it was an ethical company and I would wake up in the morning knowing I was selling cars that genuinely improved the environment. Of course you soon realise that the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions are transport and animal agriculture which I was already passionate about as a vegetarian.
Tesla was so far ahead at the time to provide a solution, and we needed to see more of that leadership in the food industry. It was a light bulb moment when I saw the rise of Beyond Meat ™, so I had the idea to create a vegan fast food brand. I just knew it was the right moment and I didn't care what anyone else said.
People would tell me ‘A fast food restaurant with no meat is never gonna work…’ I didn’t listen because I knew it would be the future.
There are so many similarities between Tesla and Halo Burger - they are both products based on technology and are designed so that environmental choices are the norm. We don’t want to ostracise the mainstream meat eaters because we’re trying to say veganism is the way forward! They need to feel included."
[image provided by Halo Burger]
In response to the rising popularity of plant based foods, and despite the obvious obstacles during COVID, Ross has been busy expanding the company. In January 2020 he opened a site in Shoreditch and more recently, he launched operations in Brighton and Bristol. Halo Burger is one of over 75 businesses, which began their journey in one of our converted shipping containers, and have now succeeded to expand further afield.
What were you looking for when you started thinking about new locations?
"Some opportunities arose in those cities [Bristol and Brighton] and we thought it would be prudent to take them. The cities were on our radar as they have great food scenes and are really progressively minded."
What lessons did you learn when kitting out the container at Pop Brixton, that you’ve taken with you to the new sites?
"Some of the ideas I initially had for Pop but which we couldn’t execute because it was our first space, have now been able to be put into place in our Shoreditch location. We have a free arcade game and large screen menus that have a VHS filter. Otherwise they are really similar spaces. We’ve kept the same style from our first restaurant at Pop Brixton."
Thinking back to when you were exploring your first potential business site, what drew you to Pop Brixton?
"It’s a happening place with high footfall and a great atmosphere. It’s lower risk comparatively to other sites and models and has a really supportive network. That’s what makes it so attractive. Oh and a friendly, supportive onsite team as well!"
What words of encouragement would you give to someone whose plans may have been hindered in the last year?
"If you have a dream, or something that you’re passionate and excited about, just try to understand the situation we’re in as best you can and ask yourself - can I still do this? Think about how you might need to tweak and amend your idea. There are people in this climate who have been able to adapt a bit and still grow.
Most importantly, don’t lose faith. If you can find a way to make it work now - go for it but if you think you need to wait a bit longer work on your plan, adapt it and go forward, but don’t lose faith."
Looking towards the future with a reopening on the cards soon as we come towards the end of lockdown - What’s next on the cards for Halo Burger? Any plans we should keep an eye out for?
"We’ve got a considerable amount of new product ideas. I can't say too much about them but we’re working on them at the moment and are excited to bring them out in the coming months."
Join Ross and many others like him at Pop Brixton and bring your creative vision to life.
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Halo Burger is currently available daily from Pop Brixton via @deliveroo & @ubereats. Check out their INSTAGRAM for all their latest updates @haloburgeruk.