Charlie’s Raw Squeeze®️ is the brainchild of Johnny and Michael Tabet who also happen to supervise the operation of family-run business Charlie’s Fruit Market. With their extensive knowledge of fresh and local produce the pair set out to launch a chain of innovative juice bars offering healthy, plant-based food and drinks to the masses.
We chatted with Johnny to learn a little more about the business, how they got started, and what it means to have an ethical, sustainable, and health-conscious approach to business.
1. Charlie’s Raw Squeeze® blends your extensive knowledge of fresh and local produce with your passion for providing healthy plant-based quick-service food to the masses. So, how did you get started? Was there a ‘leap of faith’ moment? Did the business evolve? Tell us a little more about the beginning of your story.
Our story has started with an “aha” moment: waking up to the reality and understanding things that we had we never thought about before. It wasn’t just about transitioning to the plant-based lifestyle, it was also about care. Care for our customers, care for the planet, care for people’s health.
We felt a massive drive to promote this ethical, sustainable, and health-conscious way of living, to encourage people to make this lifestyle change, and support that by offering fresh, healthy, local food at an affordable price.
2. Sourcing fresh fruit and vegetables from your sister business Charlie’s Fruit Market to produce your cold drinks, hearty salads and guilt-free desserts, you’re embracing the market-to-mouth philosophy. How did you go from running a fruit shop to running an innovative juice bar?
The idea for Charlie’s Raw Squeeze came from working with fresh product and its short shelf life. Rather than throwing away unsold produce, we started freezing fresh, local fruit and making smoothies with it.
We liked what we had created and decided that we can make it [Charlie’s Raw Squeeze] happen in Brisbane. We had big dreams, and even after opening 10 juice bars, we still do. We’re keeping our finger on the pulse and are always trying to change the menu according to the demand.
3. While you’re serving up colourful, plant-based food via your 10 outlets around Queensland, you’re also sharing these creations to your 29,000 followers on Instagram, that’s quite an audience. What do you think has helped grow such a sizable following?
I think we were at the right place at the right time. We introduced a fresh, local product to Brisbane in a really fun way. We made healthy eating enjoyable and accessible, and people responded to that very well. Plus, our customers love to snap our colourful creations and share them on Instagram, which has certainly contributed to the Charlie’s ‘trend’.
4. Studies have shown that vegan and vegetarian diets result in less greenhouse gas emissions, so as a plant-based juice bar and cafe, was eco-friendly food serviceware a natural next step?
Yes, it was very important decision for us. We believe it’s an important next step towards making this planet a better place to live.
5. Your healthy, delicious, and colourful plant-based food is a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians, an area of food business that seems to be growing. What advice do you have to people who are considering moving towards a plant-based diet?
Take it easy and take it consciously. Get educated and understand what are you doing and why. Our mission statement says that we not only desire to deliver fresh, healthy, plant-based food, but also to educate. We offer a range of popular cooking classes in Brisbane teaching participants how to cook healthy meals at home, and explaining the benefits of it. And, we have installed screens at the stores to educate the customers about the benefits of eating healthy.
6. Charlie’s Raw Squeeze® is a popular choice with food delivery services like Uber Eats, how has this affected the business?
The effect has only been positive. We make sure we deliver the same quality food to all our clients whether they’re enjoying in store or take away. It’s a competitive market with so much choice on offer via the food delivery platforms, so we leave little notes on the bag thanking our customers for choosing us.
7. Your venues feature tables and chairs made from recycled pallets and hessian cushions, what other sustainability-focused initiatives do you have in your business?
As they say ‘our doors are always open’, and we welcome any local business to come and approach us to work with us. In addition to having a focus on sustainability with our plant-based food and drinks offering (served in BioPak packaging), we are all about connection and community. For example, we invite local musicians to play at our flagship store and invite our customers and their families. When you come to the store you will see a lot of local businesses advertising.
8. Plastic straws suck, and we’ve recently launched an eco-friendly alternative: our FSC-certified paper BioStraws. As a food service business serving plant-based food in eco-friendly packaging, do you think it’s important to consider sustainability in every part of the business?
It is very important, indeed. It is important for us as business owners and for our customers, too. We all need to be on the same page, considering our impact on the environment, and working together to preserve the planet.
9. What advice do you have for other small businesses with a focus on sustainability?
Stay focused and never give up. Business is a journey, and just like your life, it will go up and down. But, the main thing is to meet your customers’ problems, and to help. Get ready to learn, to change, to sacrifice, to celebrate, and to enjoy all of it equally.