Want to eat like a caveman?

Want to eat like a caveman?

18-Apr-2014
Nobody wants to live the life of a caveman, but if you want to eat like one there's a growing number of cafes and health food shops which will take you back to the Stone Age – or at least to the hunter-gatherer diet we're supposedly genetically in synch with.

Thrive, MLC Centre

Paleo cafes and restaurants, which claim to serve a primal diet from before man embraced farming practices and cultivated food, are now catching on in Australia.

"A typical Paleo menu could incorporate eggs, steak and chicken for breakfast, meat-based soups or salads for lunch and roast meat and vegetables for dinner." 

The Paleolithic period dates back to any time before 10,000 years ago. The Paleo or Primal diet limits fruit and enthusiastically incorporates the vegetables, nuts and meats that our cave-dwelling ancestors might have sourced on the move. It eschews dairy foods, legumes and wholegrains.
Paleo-proponents claim that our bodies have not yet caught up with our tastes – diabetes, obesity and heart disease all started when ancient man decided to go agricultural.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants which claim this space. They might be termed Primal, Paleo or part thereof. They may be termed “Mediterranean” or simply “wholefood”. The common denominator is they are gluten and dairy-free and reject processed foods of any kind.

Paleo Cafe, which was started two years ago in Cairns, will have 11 franchisees by next month and aims for 30 by the end of the year. It promotes the “healthy Paleo lifestyle”, but marketing manager Ingrid White says you don't have to live every moment for it. It works best for those with gluten or dairy intolerances and decreases internal inflammations for the rest of us. It does offer non-Paleo options.

Josh Sparks, founder of THR1VE, says he is building a healthy food-to-go cafe business which is “Paleo-inspired”. “We don't want to be associated with just one dietary brand,” Sparks says. “We're more interested in scientific evidence. If we decide to incorporate legumes that the Paleo diet rejects, we will.”

A typical Paleo menu could incorporate eggs, steak and chicken for breakfast, meat-based soups or salads for lunch and roast meat and vegetables for dinner. There are stews, stir-fries as well as frittatas and omelettes.

How does the Paleo diet stack up with nutritionists? Not all are keen about the exclusion of grains or its strong focus on meat. “It may be a starting point for better food choices,” says Aloysa Hourigan, national spokesman for Nutrition Australia. “But it doesn't fully meet Australian dietary guidelines. We would encourage covering off on all the core food groups – which includes the grains,” she says. “Legumes and dairy are also limited in Paleo.”

One might expect the phenomenon to be inner-city centric, but White says franchisee demand has overwhelmingly come from regional areas, with places such as Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Tamworth “screaming for it”.

“In the regional and country towns they're saying please can we have a cafe here as there are no healthy eating options. There may be a deli in the town, but not much else.”

By contrast, Sparks' mainstay is his Martin Place restaurant in the Sydney CBD, which he says is extremely successful, while the other in Canberra is holding its own. There are three more cafes planned this year – another for Sydney and one each for Melbourne and Brisbane.

Sparks and business partner Ross Lane own 70 per cent of the capital and there are four other minor shareholders. He says he is wary of seeking venture capital too early in the life of the business for fear that it might dilute the brand. “I'm a brand fascist and I want to keep control of the brand and product offer for as long as I can,” he says.

Sparks eventually envisages a mix of company-owned and franchised THR1VE outlets. “If I had to say how many we wanted, three or four per capital feels comfortable. Ten may not be. We want to be a specialist type of eatery and we're being careful about sites,” he says.

Paleo Cafe estimates that franchisees will need an initial capital investment of between $150,000 to $350,000 (depending on the state of a building and the locale). It levies an initial fee of $38,500 and a weekly fee of $825. For this, franchisees will be trained for two weeks and given access to brand literature and a centralised marketing hub. The head chef and operations manager will also set up and launch the restaurant.

It also makes the bold claim that annual sales are likely to be $1-2 million, figures which are derived from actual sales figures from existing cafes. Once a prospective franchisee is seen to be a good fit and signed a confidentiality agreement, financial information will be shared, the company says. But as with all franchise agreements, the buck stops with the franchisee.

“Each potential franchisee should do their own due diligence to ensure the financial viability of the business,” White says.


For the original article from WA Today click here.