The brands have tens of thousands of followers online despite having only single-digit stores.
As a new brand, founded only last November 2018 whilst being 100% plant-based bakery, Weirdoughs has a lot to prove in Australia’s competitive QSR market. With the country being named as the third fastest-growing vegan market in the world behind the United Arab Emirates and China, it would hardly be the first brand to offer baked goods to a vegan crowd.
Weirdoughs’ advantage, however, is the wealth of experience at its back. Created by Mark Koronczyk, Amanda Walker and Sam Koronczyk, co-founders of the acclaimed vegan chain Lord of the Fries, in collaboration with brothers Mark and Attil Filippelli, from the equally iconic Matcha Mylkbar, along with co-owners Ruby Shine and Shaunn Anderson, Weirdoughs looks to be a serious contender in Australia’s vegan food space.
Speaking for the brand, Amanda Walker told QSR Media in an exclusive interview, “The inspiration for the project sprouted from an unrequited desire to source quality vegan desserts in Melbourne’s CBD.”
“The result is a bold, technicolour day-night operation that possibly has more in common with a laneway bar than a traditional patisserie; serving beats and sweets all through the day, and until late nights on Friday and Saturday.”
Baker Kane Neale, the former executive pastry chef for Vue de Monde Group, takes the helm directing Weirdoughs towards a fusion of modern sustainability and old-school baking practices to deliver “an irreverent new spin on the classics — all without the butter”.
Weirdoughs’ menu ranges from the expected lattes and croissants to more adventurous treats like chili roasted pecan ice cream and lobster rolls with Ume plum caviar and snow pea tendrils. Currently, there are 12 ice cream flavours that range from creamy vanilla with croissant dough through to aperol spritz and our favourite eggplant & lavender. The brand also offers a changing menu of special limited edition items, such as Turkish delight croissant for Valentines, and a Peking Duck croissant in honour of the Lunar New Year.
Walker said that new hot beverages are in the works for the winter season, but for now the brand is seeing great success with its current “weird” line-up.
“Feedback is fantastic! Everyone who has tried any of our baked goods, drinks & ice creams is in love with our food. We get a lot of great comments online and in person. It’s very exciting for everyone,” she said.
Coming from the previous successes of Lord of the Fries and Matcha Mylkbar, the team behind Weirdoughs knows that success hinges on the brand’s focus on great food and excellent service. Walker said that from what they have learned over the years in the QSR business, it pays to place special attention on the people that spend their time and money on their products and to make every experience count.
How the brand values its community is expressed in its peculiar menu. Walker pointed out that each customer who walks into their store can expect to find high quality, freshly baked, environmentally-friendly treats “made with love, served with a smile”.
“Weirdoughs is more than just a gelateria & pastry shop. It’s a place to express one’s inner weirdough, to feel included. It’s not just for plant based people, it’s for everyone,” Walker said. “They will always feel welcome when they walk into a Weirdoughs store. It’s more than just a place to eat-- it’s a community.”
The brand’s emphasis on community might have resonated with consumers, as the brand currently has already garnered a following of over 11,000 people on Instagram, despite only having one store in Melbourne.
Weirdoughs’ playful, individualistic messaging echoes throughout their feed: posts with #stayweird hashtags, puns related to their menu items, a technicolour aesthetic and witty captions clearly geared to entice a younger market.
“If you’re always trying to be normal, you’ll never know how amazing you could be,” one post reads.
Devon Cafe's Piggy Banc pork belly. Credit: Devon Cafe Instagram
Four stores, 32,000 followers
Devon Cafe, a Surry Hills-based brand that has also found its own niche in the social media space, echoed similar sentiments. The cafe chain has garnered around 32,000 followers on Instagram despite operating only four stores in Australia.
“We always treat the followers online like a family. We are not a big brand and we are niche so the way we communicate is always casual and communicate with them, like how we would communicate as family,” Devon Cafe PR & Marketing Officer Derek Puah explained to QSR Media.
Interestingly, he added that it was never a priority for Devon to gain a huge following on social media; it was only the means to the end of connecting with their customers and communicating their brand message.
“I guess the followers like what we have to offer as well as our brand.”
The significance of digital platforms continue to grow unabated in the QSR space. The number of people using the internet has surged over the past year, with more than one million people coming online for the first time each day since January 2018. Research finds that there are 3.48 billion social media users in 2019, with the worldwide total growing by 288 million (9 percent) since this time last year.
According to data from GlobalWebIndex, the average social media user spends 2 hours and 16 minutes each day on social platforms – up from 2 hours and 15 minutes last year – which equates to roughly one-third of their total internet time, and one-seventh of their waking lives. This presents vast opportunities for businesses, especially start-ups, to build and grow their audience.
Whether social media could hold the key to success for brands like Weirdoughs and Devon, only time will tell.
Photo credit: Weirdoughs Instagram
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