We Grill – Dalton Mello and Greg Rush

Twelve is the only organic plant-based restaurant in Bournemouth, Dorset and the UK’s first organic bar to make cocktails with fresh cold-pressed juices. Opened in November 2018 by steak and seafood pros Dalton Mello and Greg Rush, the pair have stepped away from mainstream dining in favour of a niche business which is showing huge growth potential. We spoke to Dalton to find out more…

What is your career history?

I was a restaurant supervisor at Gaucho and then private dining manager at Caprice Holdings. Greg worked for Hawksmoor before taking a restaurant manager job at Goodman Group’s Burger & Lobster.

So how did Twelve come about?

Part of our culture is that you’re fed while at work, and in our case, that meant eating a lot of red meat! While it was delicious and the best quality, over time we both began to feel tired and lethargic, so we decided to give our bodies a rest from it. It was a month that changed our lives in more ways than one! Those four weeks were a revelation – we felt great with so much energy, and so it inspired us to take it a step further and become vegetarian for a month. The health benefits were enormous and we made the decision to become vegan, and felt incredible! This dietary decision sparked our imaginations. We knew that there was demand for a venue where customers could come and enjoy fantastic food that also made them feel good. And, rather than go to a restaurant and scan the menu for the one or two vegan dishes, we decided to create a restaurant where everything is plant based.

Tell us about Twelve…

We spent a lot of time on market research and wanted to prove that vegan restaurants can be ‘slick’, as many outside London have a ‘homemade vibe’. Therefore, Twelve Eatery is a place where vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians, flexitarians, omnivores and meat eaters meet to try creative dishes in a good atmosphere with stylish interiors. We believe great food and good music should be enjoyed by everyone!

What’s its aim?

While the restaurant is vegan, we are very clear about the messaging around the menu: our approach is all about the customer experience and creating genuinely delicious food that just happens to be plant based. There are no obvious vegan cues and most of our customers don’t even make the connection that the menu is plant based. For us, it’s all about organic and sustainability. We pride ourselves on being defined not by what’s missing but by what it is, and that’s genuinely delicious food.

Who is your customer base?

Somewhat surprisingly, the vast majority are not vegan! Instead, 80% of our customers are women, aged 30-45, looking to eat healthily. People are turning away from junk food and instead are opting for outlets that offer more wholesome, healthy options and we pride ourselves on producing the opposite of fast food. We take our time to create dishes that customers will love and remember.

Describe your menu…

Twelve brings together plenty of classic dishes, all organic and vegan, under one roof. An Italian restaurant may offer a vegan option, as will an American-themed outlet, or a Mexican – here we provide all the classics, brasserie-style, all under one roof. The menu has a variety of dishes, including burgers, pub grub and pasta dishes. So many vegans used to love those flavours and miss them, so we try and recreate them as plant-based dishes, and they absolutely fly out. Fresh, organic and quality are the buzz words for Twelve, and we focus on sourcing British produce.

Tell us about your organic bar…

It’s the UK’s first 100% organic bar. We offer a huge choice of organic cold-pressed juices which are a big daytime seller, especially our most popular juice, Energy Rush, which is made of carrot, orange, ginger and Maca, a Peruvian root which offers several health benefits and boosts energy. Our cold-pressed juice bar offers a rainbow of choices with superfood ingredients to give you a health kick.

What about alcohol?

We use our organic juices to make cocktails, which are incredibly popular as the day turns into night. We use natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup and agave to ensure the cocktails are a healthy indulgence, especially as we add Maca and cold-pressed CBD products to boost their health credentials. Our cocktails are perfect for those wanting to indulge but without undoing their good work. It’s all about balance. The wines and beers we offer are organic and natural too. Some of our wines even contain no sulphur, which is perfect for avoiding a hangover. We also offer a range of organic spirits, liqueurs and great coffee too!

Do you feel a responsibility for your customer’s health?

In a way, yes. Running a restaurant that customers rely on for great flavour and a health boost is quite a responsibility. We recognise that people trust us to deliver healthy, nutritious ingredients and flavour-packed dishes. We pride ourselves on knowing our ingredients inside and out as our customers are relying on us to deliver what they need.

What’s your future vision for Twelve?

Ideally, that it will eventually become the UK’s first national vegan chain. Twelve is just a restaurant that happens to be vegan. We want to take plant-based diet to a different level and help people understand that you can still enjoy pretty much everything in your lifestyle without giving anything up.

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