When Frank and Leo set up their City-based eaterie, Soop!, five years ago, they weren’t 100% sure they could make a success of it.
Lukewarm friends since their Cambridge days (in cardboard manufacturing) they also disliked each other’s partners:
‘I was living with a gold-digger and Frank… Well, let’s face it she was a slapper.’
‘I know. That’s what I liked about her, mate,’ joke the pair.
What’s more, neither of them could add up and they were completely lacking in vision.
‘But we both felt passionate about soup. We thought it was as dull as fuck.
And that’s when the idea came to us: let’s sell shedloads of it to bankers.’
The duo enlisted the help of a business angel to put together a proposal, at the heart of which was a commitment to local, organic ingredients from sustainable sources, with an emphasis on customer satisfaction.
But slowly the idea began to change shape.
‘We did a taste test and realised that, once it’s peeled and liquidised, you can’t tell if a carrot’s got three heads that glow in the dark.
And it’s so much cheaper if you fly it in from abroad. The children in these countries have got the most nimble fingers- you should see them,’ urges Leo.
‘Yeah, we often have a laugh about our Yeti-sized carbon footprint,’ adds Franks mischievously.
‘But on a serious note, there’s a lot of guff talked about Fair Trade. I mean, fair to whom? Johnny farmer picking corn in the sunshine after a siesta or Muggins here, grinding away in the urban jungle?
It just depends on your point of view.’
The suggestion that businesses founded on the principles of quality and craftsmanship thrive, is met with suspicion.
‘They may be smiling in the glossies but look at their bottom line and it’ll stink.
The day we made profit our God was the day we came of age in the restaurant business.
For the vast majority, food is fuel and- what can I say?- we sell petrol.’
‘Hi-test. Vegetable,’ qualifies Frank.
The future certainly looks rosy for the entrepreneurs, with new branches opening in Notting and Primrose Hills (‘Our expansion strategy’s based on tailing rich Americans at the week-end’) and a sister brand, Bred!, in the pipeline.
For anyone thinking of following in their footsteps they have this advice:
‘Surround yourself with workaholics. They even turn up on Christmas day- it’s fantastic.’
‘And don’t offer employees any company equity. That way, they still rely on you, even when the cash is rolling in.’