The Famous (and Allergy-Friendly) Hummus Bros!
From humble beginnings touring London markets with their creations, to being consulted by MP’s on EU regulations relating to food allergens, Cambridge graduates Christian Mouysset and Ronen Givon have had quite the journey over the past 10 years. With their creative allergy friendly menu, low prices and relaxed atmosphere, it’s easy to understand the success Hummus Bros has experienced since its inception in 2004. I was recently invited Christian to talk all things Hummus over a selection from their menu (including the best gluten-free brownie I have ever tried!)
Christian, who grew up in France before moving here for university, is disarmingly friendly with an infectious enthusiasm for the food he and Ronen started eating as broke students during their Cambridge days. “It was the ideal student snack,” says Christian, “It’s cheap, it’s low GI so keeps you full for longer, it’s healthy, and most importantly – as hummus bros shows – it will go with almost everything!” I can confirm, as I dip gluten free bread into the combined plate of hummus & guacamole and hummus & chicken in front of me, hummus is surprisingly versatile.
After going their own ways for a year after university, good friends Christian and Ronen decided they had to do something together, and seeing as the Middle-Eastern (NOT Greek, despite what many of in the UK assume) dip had been such a mainstay of their friendship, they decided to take their vision of hummus to the masses. “We’d had hummus with literally everything at uni – meat, salad, vegetables so we took these inventions around Hampstead and Borough markets and gave them away for free. However, if you give someone something for free they will tell you its great even if it isn’t. So it was when we started charging small amounts that we began to understand what worked and what didn’t.”
Despite great feedback, Christian and Ronan decided that their brand wouldn’t take off until it had a permanent home was found, and as ‘luck’ would have it, there was a great Soho property available for a relatively low price, due to it being considered unlucky. “Despite that, Wardour Street was the best thing that could have happened to us at that time. Within a day of opening Time Out had reviewed us, and there was a great feeling of togetherness with all the other establishments down the street.”
Their vision began to take shape and as they became more and more successful the boys decided the time was right to open a new branch. The superstition surrounding the Soho property was given credence, however when it was declared out of action due to flooding in the office above. Christian and Ronen had only just signed the lease on their new Holborn premises, and despite having two places, neither were in operation. “I still don’t see us as being unlucky, if anything being in amongst such a great community helped us – the community of Wardour Street came through for Hummus Bros and in many ways helped us get back on our feet.”
Since those early days Hummus Bros has expanded rapidly and now has a branch in Cheapside, which is popular with lawyers and bankers and the Exmouth Market branch. Along with the domestic success Christian and Ronen have had overseas interest, from countries as disparate as India and the US, and are working on a cookbook at the moment.
For someone as energetic as Christian it is important to keep things fresh, and alongside Ronen he spends his days working with suppliers to improve and diversify the menu. The most important use of their time, however, is spent taking turns working front-of-house in each branch to gain first-hand feedback on the experience of the customer. This has over the years to such an allergy-friendly menu, and one that will bode well for Hummus Bros when the EU regulations surrounding allergens come into play in December of this year. “Since we first started I have noticed a definite increase in people asking for information surrounding allergies and nutrition, and now I’d estimate that 15% of all our customers have special dietary requirements. People have started to realise that what they put into their bodies affects them, and with our lives getting busier and busier it’s important to be on top form at all times. We make sure, therefore, to know exactly what goes into our food, and to pass this information on to the customer”.
The importance they give to knowing their product has been recognised by those in high places, and the guys were recently consulted by an MP for advice on the implementation on the new EU regulations on allergens. “We want as many people as possible to enjoy our food as much as we do, so we always do what we can to accommodate customers. Take our desserts for example; our baklava is lactose free, our chocolate brownie is gluten free and most things on our menu that aren’t allergy-friendly can be adjusted.”
Having recently launched their breakfast range, it is clear that the guys’ natural energy – possibly a result of the sheer volume of hummus they eat – and their ability to constantly self-assess has led to great success so far. With hummus-love spreading like wildfire who is to say that their vision of hummus becoming a staple part of a UK diet won’t become a reality?
Hummus Bros will be holding an educational ‘gluten free eating’ at 6pm on Tuesday April 1st with food, guest speakers and goodies. For more information and to book your place please visit http://www.hbros.co.uk/gf/