The bustling corporate landscape of Collins Street in Melbourne’s CBD is an unexpected location for Home Vegan Bar. It’s here where ‘home’ is, serving up all-vegan salads, soups, bowls, and cold-pressed juices. As you walk into the bar, the rigid concrete of the outside melts away. It’s here where health and rejuvenation begin.
Home Vegan Bar’s owner Robin started the business as a way to introduce cold-pressed juices to Melbourne. The first store, Home Juice Bar opened in late 2014 to achieve this while Home Vegan Bar started in June this year. “[The] idea is to promote health and well-being and focus on 100% plant-based offerings to the corporates.”
Corporate workers in Melbourne’s CBD who are working long, sometimes punishing hours, are most likely not thinking about preparing meals in advance or paying attention to their health as much as they should. Home Vegan Bar is situated within walking distance of many of Melbourne’s corporate businesses. Those working the Monday to Friday 9 to 5 routine can simply walk to Home Vegan Bar and purchase food and beverages that can nourish them. “We have continued to build on the foundations of our company motto, ‘HOME is where the heart is’”, Robin explains. “A place where love and gratitude is infused into the very fabric of everything we create and offer. A place of ‘Soul Food’ both through our nourishing plant-based menu, but also the energy and conversation that our space provide. We have come from the approach that ‘food is medicine.’ Each and every offering on our menu reflects this and our holistic passionate lifestyle and philosophy.”
Melbourne is seeing a boom in demand for healthy plant-based food, including vegan options. Though, business owners need to live and breathe what they’re serving. This the case for Robin. “I come from an Indian heritage background, but I have been here since I was 17 years of age. I grew up vegetarian but while I was developing the juice company; I have started investing more time and interest towards plant-based diet and have done various types of diet to live a healthy lifestyle. For the last three years I have been vegan and have seen an immense shift in my health and more importantly to the environment. I am big believer of a statement ‘every change starts with you’”.
When customers visit Home Vegan Bar, they can opt to grab a healthy meal ‘from the display’ on the run, or they can stay a while, ‘enjoy the space’ and order off an ala carte menu. “We try to be creative in what we do. We always look for a point of difference amongst our competitors and something that aligns well with our company values and purpose,” Robin confirms. “Often, we engage all our customers and team members to get some ideas and inspirations and then experiment behind our green door to create some magic.”
The ingredients are an integral part of the magic for Home Vegan Bar’s creations, so Robin and his team have a key selection of ingredients they draw from. “For organic cold-pressed juices, we use some of the superfood and medicinal spices such as activated charcoal, schisandra, spirulina, cayenne pepper, activated cinnamon. It is not commercially popular stuff and in addition to that we also use various kinds of doterra oil which gives refreshment to the overall product. “Because we use organic produce, all superfood spices, and are very unique process, it makes our product very premium. It is something that we can assure, someone would have not tried before. We believe in not selling a product but giving an overall experience.”
Home Vegan Bar’s core customers are working women, from 22 to 55 years. It’s this group that may feel the effects of corporate working life the most – many having to juggle careers with household responsibilities. Robin reveals that health and happiness are of utmost importance to this customer base, and are willing to live a healthy lifestyle. All three daily meals (plus snacks) are covered. “Because we are in a business hub and are in CBD, we don’t just focus on vegans,” Robin explains. “Since we promote plant-based, we are targeting anyone who is looking to change their lifestyle. While you’re at work, you need to be focused both mentally and physically and we believe that choices you make reflect the outcome. From the morning’s first coffee to morning tea and afternoon lunch or even afternoon tea, we believe that quality input equals quality output. Some of the options are raw, vegan and gluten-free salads, small-batch hot curries, soups and stews, sandwiches, wraps and nutritious all-day breakfast such chia puddings, raw Bircher muesli and porridge. All the food is prepared daily onsite and with love and gratitude.”
The modern and fresh space that Home Vegan Bar occupies is like a sanctuary away from Melbourne’s concrete jungle. It’s a safe space that customers visit to nourish their bodies with fresh food ideas. “Our made to order [menu] is designed with an aim for people are looking to spend time and enjoy the space or perhaps are coming in bigger groups, or having meetings are wanting to explore unique food that is rare to find and genuinely tasty. Our nourishing plant-based menu aligns well with the place full of ‘soul food’ and the energy that our space is designed to provide naturally. Overall, we have one dedicated experienced staff member who is out on the floor to educate, support and assist customers are new to the concept and are motivated to be a part of this change. More importantly, our prime focus is to develop a space full of positive vibes, love, warmth and care and that itself is bringing happiness to our customers’ life.”
Home Vegan Bar also prides itself on its fresh juice cleanse programs; customers can learn more about these in-store. “Our environment and our busy schedules can make it very difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle balance,” Robin explains. “We find ourselves looking for a way to get back to feeling healthy and energetic. Around 70% of our energy is spent on digesting our food every day. When we drink fresh juice from whole fruits and veggies rather than eat them, it gives our digestive system a break, and allows our bodies to easily absorb the flood of nutrients we are taking in. This break gives our body the time to focus on healing itself and flushing out stubborn toxins and waste. Our bodies have the power to heal themselves; they just need to be given a chance to do so. A juice cleanse is a great way to break back into healthy eating habits.”
While Robin admits Melburnians have been slow to understand the benefits of a plant-based and vegan diet, he is optimistic that the world is now changing; changes that will stay for years to come. “Five years ago, plant-based, and vegan was known and supported by handful of people. But now, it is becoming mainstream. You will see all the big players have started shifting towards their segment because it has a very good impact on both health and the environment. In the next decade, I’ll definitely see a massive impact in this industry supported by each and every individual.” Robin is positive about the evolution of his business in the future. “Getting good support from the community has given us more confidence in the direction we wanted our brand to grow into. We have been getting a lot of enquires about franchising and licensing from locals as well as interstate people who are often in Docklands. We are working with a couple of companies to strategically collaborate and enhance our footprint both into retail and wholesale space.”
Try visiting Home Vegan Bar for yourself. Shop 4/699 Collins Street, Docklands Victoria 3008. 7.00am to 9.00pm Monday to Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday. Main meals $10.00 to $23.00, hot and cold drinks $5.00 to $12.00, juice cleanse program options as priced per program.
You can read Justine’s review of Home Vegan Bar at WeekendNotes. All food and drinks were paid in full by Justine de Jonge and did not receive any compensation for the views expressed in this review and interview.