AVO is an avocado-inspired cafe and outside catering concept that places a large emphasis on supporting local suppliers, charities and the community. They embrace a ‘collaborate don’t compete’ ethos, working with many other local cafes and food concepts to promote collectively, for the benefit of the Aberdeen street food scene as a whole.
We had a chat with David, one of the faces behind this amazing Aberdeen business, to find out how they started, why they’re so passionate about their work, their biggest achievements and more...
Why did you start your business? What was the inspiration behind it?
The opportunity for AVO arose after feeling that there was a gap in the North East street food market for a vibrant, creative and healthy offering that wasn’t diet or lifestyle choice specific. The popularity of avocado over recent years has continued to rise and this, along with its versatility as an ingredient, made it the perfect recipe for an outside and fixed catering concept for us.
What led to you starting AVO? What’s your background?
We’ve both worked in the hospitality industry throughout our careers so far. I, David, have worked in Aberdeen restaurants from the age 16 - in restaurant management and business development primarily. And this was another attraction to this concept, as kitchen-wise it’s fairly basic cookery but with a large emphasis on attention to detail.
Francesco originally moved from his home in Treviso, Northern Italy to London where he worked in cafes and restaurants, before relocating to Aberdeen, where he managed and then subsequently leased a city centre restaurant for a short period of time before we launched AVO.
What do you love most about your job?
The ability to make a real contribution to our community, without a doubt. When we opened we were determined to be a force for good rather than just another café chasing sales, so have never shied away from opportunities to help other small local businesses, charities or community projects. Making a real contribution to improving Aberdeen as a place to live, work and eat is what gives us real job satisfaction.
What’s your favourite dish?
It’s got to be the AVO Benny - it’s by far everyone else’s so I can’t do it the disservice of going against public opinion!
The Benny is The Breadmaker sourdough toast with smashed avocado, Piggery Smokery’s maple cured streaky bacon, a poached Katy’s Farm egg and hollandaise sauce.
It was our first ever special back when we opened in March 2019 and it never came off the board - we weren’t allowed due to its popularity. Naturally it was the first addition to our second menu and has continued to be our most ordered item even still – Aberdeen loves a Benny!
Why are you so passionate about what you do?
We truly love it, it’s that simple. It’s so humbling seeing a little idea flourish into something that people you’ve never met before rave about to their friends. It only encourages you to keep going another level up every day to maintain that enjoyment it gives people.
What’s been your biggest achievement so far?
Besides just being afforded the opportunity to see out a full year by the amazing people of Aberdeen, it was absolutely crazy to be shortlisted for 3 awards at the Society Awards in November 2019. To have only been open for 6 months when we received the news that we were finalists for Best Café/Coffee House, Interior and Social Media Presence of the year was a big shock. To be acknowledged alongside the quality of the other finalists was a really proud moment for us. Coming away with the social media presence award was testament to the community we’ve developed around us online and made us feel really accepted as a positive contributor to the city.
You started ABZ MARKET - why did you decide to do this?
2019 was a great first year in which we focussed on championing local food and drinks producers by way of using as many as possible on our menus, naming dishes after those businesses, showcasing them on social media to help them grow their audience etc.
ABZ MARKET came about after new year, as I wanted to take it all up a notch for 2020 and reach out to other amazing small traders which we weren’t able to stock ourselves.
One of the most well received aspects of our business last year was our commitment to bringing life back into The Market by helping the management clean, decorate and improve the communal space. We also identified a problem for local traders with outdoor street markets as they are charged a high pitch fee to cover organisational costs, external marketing, outside electrical and water provisions, physical stalls with shelter etc. This meant that the costs for small traders to attend were high and the outdoor aspect meant that they were prone to last minute cancellation in colder months, leaving some traders with perishable products prone to losing out on wasted stock.
We launched ABZ MARKET in collaboration with Aberdeen Market as it eradicated all of these costs except for the organisation. We were therefore able to not only charge a fee around 80% lower than other street markets, meaning traders could earn more, but also brought Aberdeen Market back to life as a local food and retail hub on an initial once a month basis.
Our first market in February was a roaring success with traders' feedback unanimously positive and footfall dramatically increased within the Market.
What’s your advice for someone thinking about starting a business in Aberdeen?
A good product isn’t always enough. Have a strong mission etched into the DNA of your business from day one, and people will join you in fighting for it. A good product is so much more satisfying when you know the money you paid for it is in some part going towards doing good for others around you, rather than just filling a greedy pocket.
What’s been the hardest / scariest part of starting your business?
The stability of the local economy and changing perceptions of Aberdeen Market.
What’s been the most exciting / rewarding part of running your own business?
Watching it grow and develop into something that adds real value to the community.
What are your favourite local businesses right now and why?
There’s really too many, so we’ll list 5 plucked out of thin air to try to be fair…
Roots Catering – unique and high-quality product, strong community, ambitious growth.
Cupcakes by Jo – hard grafting one-woman band, more niche product but continues to grow and has amazing online presence.
Smoke & Soul – absolute passion for their product, embrace a collaborative/community led approach to business.
The House of Botanicals – sustainability culture, quality focussed, transparent as they come and born and bred from a true passion for what they do.
The Crafty Pickle Co. – an enviable force for good, community driven, sustainability champions and forward thinkers.