A London delivery based restaurant making the best food for your brain, mind and body. No shortcuts. No excuses.
A fully transparent food company focused on making real, nutrient-rich food, with pronounceable ingredients.
So Fred tell us a little bit about yourself, and the story behind starting Green House
I’m originally from Belgium and have lived and worked in various countries for the past 15 years.
I’ve just returned from an 8 year stretch in the USA, where I worked for a restaurant chain with a meaningful story. Living in the states was an incredible experience. I lived to work at the time and was giving my 150% every day to build my career in hospitality.
In your 20’s that’s what you do. You burn your energy building skill-sets, experiences and honing your talents towards a better position, financial goal or status.
Last year, I got diagnosed with severe depression and was deemed borderline suicidal. A sustained burnout, with severe side effects.
That episode was the catalyst to an incredible journey for me. As I started digging into what was wrong with the way I lived I realised I had forsaken many of the important aspects that fulfil us as humans. I discovered a great many key principles that helped me get out of it, and manage it, but probably the biggest discovery was the power that Food had on my mental wellbeing.
I had no idea at the time that there was such thing as food for happy thoughts. A diet principle for a healthy brain that affects your mood and how you feel. I’ve devoured books and talked to nutritionists about this and dug into the budding field of Nutritional psychiatry.
When I realised how easy it was to actually take care of your brain and by extension take care of You, I decided I wanted to share that with people!
There were no such concepts out there so I decided to start Green House. A delivery concept that serves food with a purpose! Food with 100% transparency about its ingredients and curated to take care of the commanding organ that defines who we are… Our brain.
We want to help people eat better to feel better by offering only specifically selected, whole ingredients that fuel your brain, mind and body, so you can be the best you can be and tackle life’s challenges with a full charge.
Do you mind elaborating a bit more on your burnout & exhaustion?
The sneaky part about burnout is that you are not fully aware that you are building up to it. You don’t always realise the full toll that some of your actions are taking in life. When I was diagnosed with depression, it became a necessity to review how I was living, review my WHY I was doing what I was doing.
I discovered that some things like, being away from my family, working for a job that only fulfilled certain ambitions but missing the big picture, changing cities every few years, not exercising enough or well and not eating the right food were just a few of the things in life that weighed on me constantly and that drained me.
I realised there are 2 types of experiences in life, the ones that drain you and the ones that fulfil you. And I when I stacked the elements of my life in these categories, I realised that I was very short of fulfilment. It is kind of like swimming against the current constantly and at one point you get a cramp.. that’s what burnout is essentially.
You run out of fuel and you are not getting fulfilled enough to keep going.
Our society certainly does seem to glamourise the whole hustle, long hours, living for the weekend type approach with work. What are your thoughts on this?
We live in extraordinary times where everything is possible and there are no boundaries. The tricky part I think is that in the old days, things were automatically slower, and more compartmentalised. Before cell phones, people could reach you during office hours, then when you closed that door, unless it was an emergency, they could not reach you until the next day.
Today, with our instant gratification minds and constant connectivity, it becomes very attractive to be available all the time, to answer every email at all hours of the day, to be constantly responding at every notification straight away. This is especially true if you are in a work environment that promotes that kind of feature as positive performance. The thing is we are not designed to be constantly switched on all the time..
Smartphones are a large reason we overwork.
They blur the line between work and life. To me they are like hammers, they can be used to build great things or to destroy something. And potential dangerous tools like hammers have an instruction manual, as well as, if you have kids, you probably have some house rules about where the hammer is stored and who is allowed to use it. I think it’s the same with smartphones. They are potentially great tools to build great things but can be very harmful if wrongly used. So why would you make house rules for hammers and not smartphones?
More than ever, if we want to preserve our sanity we have to define rules that protect our brains. We need to set boundaries. It’s tough because these boundaries are not created for us, we have to make them for ourselves, and they are different for all people.
Hustling and sprinting is good, but only when it’s necessary.
Let the emergencies and the all-nighters be the exception, not the standard. Protect yourself from over stimulation with notifications that don’t matter. Allow your brain to rest, and allow yourself to eat well every day, talk to people, say ‘no’ sometimes, enjoy nature, take the time to be grateful and enjoy nature. Eating good food is also important, we spend so much energy at so many levels nowadays that we have to recharge with food rich in nutrients. And this is also part of the reason why we offer brain food at Green House, we want people to be able to recharge fully as they work their way through a better work life balance.
So let’s talk more about the food & drinks! How would you describe your menu?
We wanted to create something different but necessary. There are many types of menus and diets out there that prone performance and healthy eating but no concept is really focused on the overall health of the brain.
Because the restaurant industry is in a tough spot nowadays, the need to squeeze margins makes people take shortcuts: add preservative, sugars, emulsifiers, cheap oils, processed foods etc..
In fact when we did some research, most of the concepts that claimed ‘healthy’ food, when you dug deeper, actually offered really unhealthy ingredients with unpronounceable names.
So we wanted to create a menu 100% transparent, with pronounceable real ingredients, NO Shortcuts, NO Excuses!
We are working on making that very clear to our guests by embedding QR codes on every packaging that links to food and sourcing facts. We want people to be able to check what their dressing is made of, where their salad is sourced from etc. They have a right to know and we have nothing to hide.
We go through a lot of trouble to prepare and bake things every day so you can truly taste the freshness of real ingredients, we don’t use additives, bad fats, processed ingredients, etc
We source Organic when we can, use only good fats (Organic extra virgin olive oil), source our free range eggs, chicken and organic fish very carefully. NO shortcuts, NO excuses! On top of that we used a nutritionist to put these ingredients together to maximise the effect it has on a particular desired mood. Anxiety, sleep, energy etc.
When you have an expensive car, and you go to the petrol station to fill it up, would you fill it with 98 Unleaded fuel or 95? You would like to take care of your car as best as possible by giving it the right fuel.. We think the same for your brain, it is probably the most precious organ we have.
How important, even crucial, do you think nourishment from what we eat & drink is?
I have now spent some time studying certain trials on the effect of food on depressive symptoms and what I found surpassed my expectations.
We all know that eating Mc Donalds every day will not get you in great shape and will give you brain fog, lo energy etc. But can eating the right food actually make you happier? It turns out it can.
The trending field of nutritional psychiatry is studying this and many researchers in the field are coming out with more and more evidence each month that eating whole foods, in certain quantities and paying attention to how much sugars, processed ingredients and bad fats you are eating is crucial if you want to be the best version of yourself. It literally has had more impact on depressed patients than antidepressant pills. So food is very powerful it truly is our preventative medicine that we fail to follow prescription wise because other options are sometimes more convenient.
There is a great talk about this from Drew Ramsey MD, that explains how it is better to pay for the FARMacy than to pay the PHARMacy.
With Green House, we wanted to democratise great, nutrient-rich food, conveniently, so there is no excuse anymore 😉
Your packaging is very different to a lot of ‘grab & go’ salads. It’s also a lot more eco-friendly too. “In total our packaging is 80% compostable and 99% recyclable, but dont worry we wont stop working until we reach 100%.” How did you go about designing this?
We looked at a lot of different options in the market. What we noticed is that we either had to choose between great design or sustainable packaging. There were very few options that offered both.
Because sustainable packaging is a non-negotiable for us we decided to go the bespoke route and we hired a packaging design agency to give us great design whilst not harming our ecosystem. We are very proud of these salad boxes and pushed this principle to all of our to-go packaging.
It was very important for us to create an experience for our guests where they could enjoy great food, at no cost to the planet so they could feel better about ordering to-go food. Today our packaging is mostly compostable, and 99% recyclable.
We are working hard on improving details and will not rest until we have reached 100% compostable and recyclable. We owe it to ourselves!
Now that we know a bit more about your amazing menu, can you describe what does a typical day look like for you, as the founder?
Well days are more chaotic for sure. As a founder you have to wear many hats and need to be good at tackling tasks with these different hats.
Danny Meyer said it best : “restaurants are one of the hardest businesses in the world, in order to succeed you have to apply simultaneously exceptional skills in real estate, negotiating, hiring, training, motivating, purchasing, budgeting, designing,manufacturing, cooking, tasting, pricing, selling, sourcing, servicing, marketing and hosting”.
Sometimes its hard when you are spending a day doing menu development to also deal with a PR firm, an equipment supplier, a real estate agent, a farmer, etc.. all different hats. I mostly spend my mornings doing admin and strategy, phone calls, meetings etc and then go to the kitchen for lunch rush and develop the operational side as we are honing this every day bit by bit.
Kitchens (especially the so-called dark kitchens) have a bad connotation. Hospitality workers in these kitchens are known to struggle with mental issues as the hours are often long, removed from natural light, with low pay and low purpose.
It is crucial for me to create an environment where people feel purposeful and where they like working for a project they can relate to. We work hard on making sure they feel appreciated. We offer small ‘perks’ like a Nap chair, Fresh water fountain, a monthly massage, etc that help them balance their well being at work. We put safeguards in place to make sure that people don’t get burned out.
Do you have a specific morning routine?
It’s a work in progress really. I feel like I have many morning routines. Depending on the type of morning I will have a particular routine. Stretching and showering are always a part of it though. Cannot wake up without it.
Starting a business all by yourself in the beginning is seen by many as daunting. Did you feel daunted? And if so how did you stay focused, positive and determined to make it a success?
To be honest, I was very hesitant to go into the deep blue sea of entrepreneurship. I went to play golf one day in Caracas with my girlfriends dad who explained some of his extraordinary adventures and that made me realise that it was the right timing for me to risk going after my passion.
At times it feels overwhelming but I am lucky to have great support. Staying positive, focusing on the small wins, not being bogged downs by defeat and keeping the bigger picture in mind is how I have made it so far.. Time will tell.
What tips or recommendations would you tell your former self, on day one of creating Green House?
Make a plan, a blueprint of your project and manage your time wisely.
Ideas are only realisable if they have some form of structure to them, otherwise they are just ideas. Refining those into something that convinces other people your idea is a good idea, that’s the hard part.
Planning makes sure that you stay on track and that you reduce stress. Even if you decide to be agile and change most of your business, having a plan is key to move things forward with minimal anxiety.
Then managing your time efficiently is crucial to get things done. Stephen Covey is always a great resource to go to when you are trying to get the most ROI on your time.
What’s a favourite ‘failure’ or difficult barrier/hurdle you have had to overcome?
Well getting started for me was tough. When you are depressed, calling a friend over the phone is an insurmountable task, let alone starting company in a new country. Being able to ‘get over’ depression and create a life structure that allowed me to start my own company is the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome so far. I am grateful that I had really good help from friends and family for that.
What’s it like having the Dead Simple Accounting team involved with your business?
It surely takes a load of my mind. Having someone that you can trust to give you the right reporting and that utilises all the modern communication techniques to reassure you and is very important.
I have an accountant in Belgium and they still function behind closed doors, the old school way. I wish more companies had the philosophy you have. Really helps me do my job much better and with less worry.
Anyone reading this can claim a free dessert with their order from Deliveroo or Uber Eats – just mention Dead Simple Accounting.
You’ve been using Quickbooks a little while now with dead simple accounting – what features do you particularly like?
I honestly mostly use the reporting structure.I think Quickbooks allows for a lot of customisation when it comes to that and really gives you a good view of how you are performing. Sales reports but also actual spending vs theoretical really helps manage where you are vs your forecasts.
The rest I entrust to Dead Simple Accounting 🙂
I think having a financial plan, reviewed by people who have done it before is crucial when you build a startup.It creates a realm of feasibility and a measurement tool where you can measure your performance vs your expectations.
Having the help of an accountant from the get go, especially in a country that I am new to has been extremely helpful and I would recommend to all entrepreneurs in the same situation.
So to wrap up, tell us a little about the launch of Green House. Where can we find you?
We launched last week and are working on different revenue streams.
Currently you can find us on Deliveroo and Uber Eats in the Bethnal Green area but we will be expanding that delivery zone soon.