Fishbowl is set to open its sixth Victorian store in the south-east suburb of Armadale, with the grand opening on 7 January. The healthy, quick service restaurant chain is working in partnership with Flying Fox – a Melbourne-based, youth-led organisation that – among other things – hosts inclusive adventures for kids living with disabilities. Inside Retail speaks with Fishbowl area manager Molly Barron and people and culture lead Megan Ford about the new store and partnership, as well as t
l as the brand’s plans for 2023. Inside Retail: How did the partnership with Flying Fox begin? Molly Barron: I used to be the manager of the Prahran store. One of the staff members came to me with a friend of hers, who was involved in the organisation Flying Fox. It’s a not-for-profit organisation that aims to give people with disability, and families of kids with disability, a chance to socialise in a relaxed environment. It also enables their parents or siblings to have a night off, or join them, as they develop new skills. The idea was [to teach] them how to make a bowl and provide experiences they wouldn’t otherwise be able to walk into. We had the first hangout at our Docklands store. It’s usually closed at night to the public, but we kept the doors open, and there were about 40 of us in-store: anyone who wanted to make a bowl. We selected a handful of our crew – which is epic, because half our staff are doing this as a part-time job alongside uni. It was a huge hit. For the second one, we hired a staff member, Cameron, whose sister is a Flying Fox Camper. We plan on doing many more hangouts. We also plan on doing a veggie patch, or something like that, at Flying Fox’s purpose-built house that they crowdfunded. They run camps every season, and they’re keen for us to jump on board. There’s a million potentials for things we can do, [and] we’re making it a priority. IR: Can you discuss how proceeds will go to Flying Fox? Megan Ford: Normally with our store openings we do about 100 free bowls to create an atmosphere out the front. But, with this opening, we wanted to open with a purpose. So all profits from opening day will go to Flying Fox. Later in the month, we might do a promotion with Flying Fish – a limited-edition bowl, where a certain amount of proceeds from the sale of those bowls will go to Flying Fox. IR: Can you discuss why Armadale was the location for the new store? MF: A lot of people who live around the area love healthy food. Under time pressure, we want to feed people good food, and something different that is not already in the area that they can get really quickly. They can sit in our nice, new restaurant, or enjoy take away at home, or at the beach. We had lots of requests for a store in this area, and we think it will fit in perfectly with the high calibre of retail among the High Street. Jan 3 was our soft opening and – based on the response – I think this will be one of our highest revenue stores in Melbourne for sure. We will continue to grow our Fishbowl community in Melbourne. IR: Can you discuss the process of opening? MF: Honestly, it’s been about a year in the making. There’s been lots of back and forth with building plans and landlords and everything. We’ve had the Fishbowl details up on the window for a good 10-12 months, and everyone was emailing in to ask when it was opening. Finally, this Saturday is the grand opening. IR: Can you discuss expectations for the grand opening? MF: We’re expecting to feed about 1000 people this weekend. For the remainder of summer, I think the area will continue to see a ton of foot traffic that will hopefully continue throughout winter as well. There’s always demand for healthy food, year round. IR: In terms of partnerships, are there others in the works? MB: This is definitely the start of a pattern. With our restaurant openings, we’ll reach out to that community and find a relevant cause to collaborate with, so we can give back to local areas. MF: I think social responsibility is really important. In general, people want to spend money on causes that they care about. Be it climate, or social responsibility, customers want to use their money toward brands and companies that align with their values. People expect us to engage with the community, and give back. We want to do our part to maintain strong values and morals. There’s always room for growth, but we have a responsibility to do the best we can in the world we live in. IR: Can you discuss the performance of Fishbowl over the last year, and plans for 2023? MF: Throughout Covid-19, we had to close more than half our stores. But, over the last year, we managed to expand exponentially, and we’re doing better than we were pre Covid-19. It’s a testament to our team, as well as the demand for healthy and delicious fast food, and providing an experience that customers feel engaged with in store. We’re aiming to open about 15 stores – if not more – in 2023, across Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. We’re moving to our new central kitchen in Armadale, where our veggies and proteins are prepared. In New South Wales, they’ve built a state of the art facility, and in Queensland they’re doing the same on a smaller scale. There’s plans for further interstate growth to come, and further growth in the states we’re in. One of our next stores will be in South Melbourne, and we’re looking northside, and further down the coast as well. So, watch this space. IR: Are there plans to expand internationally as well? MF: Yes. Not sure what we can say at this stage, but that will be on the horizon. IR: In terms of growth and expansion away from the store network, are there other elements of the business that might change or evolve? MF: We’ll continue to innovate with our products and bowls, keep things fresh and exciting, and change with the season. We have a few collaborations going and will continue to do so with like-minded brands. We’re also getting involved with other events and going heavily on catering as well. We feed a few AFL teams in Melbourne, and we have a mascot who does community run clubs, City2Surf and so on. We’re also at the Australian Open this year. So, we’re feeding people good food at events that we align with.