Ron Simpson – The Avocado Show

Ron Simpson – The Avocado Show

Ron Simpson is one of the founders of The Avocado Show, a mono-restaurant and marketing concept that started in Amsterdam, serving healthy food based on sustainable avocados. The Avocado Show is a real branded concept and growing rapidly. They started in 2017 and now have several restaurants and merchandise, planning to expand through franchisers to different European cities in the near future.

Ron: “The avocado has an enormous user group. It’s a 20 billion-euro industry, but a restaurant solely specialised in avocado’s, had yet to be opened. The starting point for us was to look at trends in society and food, and look at our own preferences. Our mono product needed to create nutritious meals, be a comfort food, produce beautiful dishes, be versatile and also be loved by vegans. Our main goal was to let people experience something that is so special, they choose to share it with others. Because telling a story is important to us. Our brand name is self-explanatory, so we don’t have to explain the what anymore, making it possible for us to tell people more about the why, tell them our story.”

Main ingredients for brand growth

Ron explains one of the main KPI’s for growth: the occupancy rate in their restaurants. “It’s over 100%. We also look at how many applications we receive for franchises abroad, that’s more on an operational level. When it comes to brand, we also look at social media: how many people follow us and what the sentiment is. We also conduct surveys among our customers to see whether the experience is satisfactory. Do people like the brand, how many people know the brand? We have a huge community and high opt-in and opening rate when it comes to our mailings. The direct connection to our fanbase allows us to ask them questions regularly. We are truly top-of-mind, there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not being tagged online in dozens of pictures related to anything that has to do with avocados.”

Nobody does it like we do

Ron: “For us, excellent execution is our main ingredient for growth. A lot of people can make an avocado sandwich, but nobody does it like we do. We spend a lot of time and attention on how it looks, what’s inside, all the way to flavour profiles, styling, the story and content. If we create merchandise, it’s higher quality, more unique, less mainstream. Something that wasn’t there before. Hoodies and t-shirts aren’t innovative, and there’s plenty of clothing out there with avocados on it. But our merchandise is of high quality, and that has to do with execution. A brand is added to it, and that’s providing value that wasn’t there before.”

Staying connected through digital

Ron: “Our merchandise also contributes to our growth, which started from customer demand. We began with t-shirts but looked into how we could sell one-size-fits-all products, like books, umbrella’s and kitchen tools. Things that don’t really have a return-policy. We did start selling hoodies too, but that came at a later point in time. It’s kind of full circle; having people buy merchandise in our restaurants, then staying connected to them on a digital level. It’s a way to keep people affiliated with our brand.”

Innovation is in our DNA

To Ron, innovation is not the main ingredient for growth. However, it’s a very important part of the DNA of The Avocado Show, because being a novelty and first to market was vital for building the business in the first place. A recently introduced product innovation is frozen avocado fries: “It is an innovative product targeted to the hospitality market. To us, it’s a logical extension of what we are already doing. However, it is a novelty, first to market. Another example is our documentary about sustainability in avocado farming. We’re not the only people that ever made a documentary about the subject, but we did it in an innovative way. Till that point all the documentaries we could find, opted to be more of a sensation. Filming a small farmer who is watering the trees with a garden hose, with the title; ‘avocado industry is wasting water’. I’ve been at the top 5 avocado farms in the world, with over 150.000 hectares of avocado trees, and they are as innovative as can be. Transparency, telling the real story in Corporate Social Responsibility, is also a way of innovating.”

Stirring things up

Ron: “On one hand, you have business success; profit or break-even. The profit might not be as substantial sometimes, but the secondary earnings could be very interesting as well. Think of the growth of our fanbase, or brand awareness. On the other hand, you have personal, or creative success. Knowing that what you created has reached people all around the world. And that’s the feeling we hold onto whenever we create something new. We didn’t invent the avocado fries; we invented the convenient avocado fries. Chefs all around the world have been making it for years. But in order to make it affordable and quick, you need to make a product that’s tradable. And that’s what we did. A successful innovation is something that stirs things up. The avocado fries are exactly that.”

Stories as a source of inspiration

Ron gets his inspiration from travelling and from people. “I love listening to stories, whether cultural, in music, movies or books. What are the things that are worth sharing with others? I always look for people to follow that trigger others to find out more. In that process I look at an opportunity or problem, and then I find an answer. We don’t have a set innovation process in place. It’s more about gut-feeling and gathering advice and inspiration from a fantastic network that surrounds us.”

It’s all about timing

According to Ron, timing is the reason 9 out of 10 innovations fail. “I’m certain that the first 10 vegan restaurants failed. The idea has been around for a long time, but the target audience was too narrow initially. Someone with the same idea 10 years later is having the success of a lifetime. And that’s timing. A lot of people are ahead of their time. The real innovators are always too early. It works the same in stories; inventors are always portrayed as a little crazy. What they need is someone with a commercial background, telling them it’s a good idea, but it’s too soon. The avocado market is a mature market, and we stepped in at a very late stage. So, people told us we were too late. But we were still the first one out there with this concept, and it worked!”

Creating shareable experiences

Social media is very important to The Avocado Show. When they first launched, they went viral, even before opening their restaurant. They managed to get around half a billion views online. Since then, they’ve acquired over 150.000 followers on social media. However, being ‘Instagrammable’ is not seen as a key objective. Ron: “If people post about us on Instagram, that’s a way of communicating. To us, it’s about creating a dish you want to tell others about. If you’re not into sharing it on social media, that’s perfectly fine. I still believe people will share the experience with others, regardless of the fact they post it on social media or not.”