The world has to need it, and it has to bring goodness.
That was the driving force behind Ottawa’s newest “healthy food-on-the-go” eatery, Mad Radish, says co-founder Stephanie Howarth, girl boss extraordinaire and former vice-president of marketing at DAVIDsTEA.
Howarth and DAVIDsTEA founder David Segal left DAVIDsTEA last year, after growing it to become a publicly traded retail business worth $200-million. The pair took the knowledge gained from their first venture and applied it to a new startup, this time trading in tea for salad.
The goal was simple: to make healthy food that tastes good, accessible to Canadians. “No one’s really doing it in Canada,” said Howarth, noting that in their travels with DAVIDsTEA, they were both disappointed by the Canadian landscape in terms of healthy take-out options.
To combat this, they wanted to make sure the menu was chef-driven, enlisting chef Nigel Finley to take the lead on creating a menu which consists of innovative salads, warm bowls, soups, bread, desserts, and beverages. Everything is made fresh and in-house for under $15.
In only 11 months from conception to doors open, Mad Radish cut the ribbon on two locations in Ottawa (Segal’s hometown): one in the downtown core and one in The Glebe.
The design concept emerged from a “West Coast tour” where Howarth and her team visited cities like Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles, California.
They came back from their travels with a vision: West Coast meets a Swedish application of design. The Mad Radish team worked with Hecho Inc. out Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 2004, Hecho has been responsible for the construction, development, and launch of over 110 bars and restaurants in New York City. Restaurateurs before they were designers, Howarth said she trusted them to nail down her idea for a whimsical, creative, bright and airy space.
She wanted the design to reflect that the product is healthy, bringing in clean elements. To add warmth to the space, Mad Radish uses touches of reclaimed and artificially distressed wood, sourcing its materials from companies that have the capacity to grow with the emerging brand. Despite going “really flagship” for their first location in Ottawa, Mad Radish has big plans for national growth and ensuring that consumers would have a consistent brand experience in the stores to come was important.
Careful planning went into every detail of the design, from light fixtures to tile selection, but as with any design project, not everything went exactly according to plan. Howarth’s favourite element of the Metcalfe St. location lies within the hand washing station, placed outside the washrooms. A showerhead was shipped instead of a faucet transforming what would be an everyday experience into a spa-like waterfall cascade every time you wash your hands.
Using environmentally friendly materials was also very important, as one of the company’s core values is the corporate social responsibility aspect. Mad Radish is “trashless and cashless” meaning all of its utensils and containers are compostable, and that the business only accepts credit and debit cards.
Customers can also order their salads online or through an app on their smartphones with an added incentive that you’re also giving back to a low-income community every time you do so. Through a partnership with Community Food Centres Canada, Mad Radish donates one serving of fresh produce to local communities for every online or in-app order.
“It was important to us to give back and to create an environment that is enriching to both customers and staff,” said Howarth. “It’s cliché, but that’s what really sets us apart. We wanted to create a culture of care. And that’s exactly what I see every time I’m in one of our restaurants.”