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Chatting with Humpit

28 January 2016
Chatting with Humpit
It’s been a busy couple of years for Humpit and owner Jonathan. When the team are not picking up awards and mentions from some of the most influential foodies of our time they are kicking out fresh and delicious hummus, pittas and falafels daily at their cafe in the Corn Exchange. Here, we speak to Jonathan about becoming an accidental vegan foodie haven, the story behind their cheeky branding and the expansion of the Humpit empire as well as all things chickpea and pitta.

Back when ideas were first starting, the Humpit made the seemingly risky decision to specialise purely in hummus and falafel. This isn’t a decision they have ever looked back on and they are proud to be known both regionally and nationally for their chickpea treats:

“No one specialises in purely hummus and falafel so we thought we would focus specifically on that and keep the menu really simple. People like restaurants and eateries which specialise in only a couple of things as they know those things will be done well”.

The team at Humpit are fixated on simple fresh food which offers something different while not breaking the bank. Lots of different countries and cultures put their own spin on the hummus dip, dish or filling but at Humpit it’s all about that super smooth Middle Eastern style hummus - offering an alternative to the typical coarse Greek style ones found in supermarkets:

"In Israel all the hummus is smooth, warm and fresh and you can’t get it here as much really. In the Middle East hummus bars are just everywhere but there are no hummus bars here, which is weird when the hummus market in the U.K is a 375-million-pound industry in the five big supermarkets alone”.

Chatting with Humpit - Article 1

Their dedication to the humble hummus has consequently lead to a bit of cult following with 40% of their customers being regulars and their pitta pockets becoming a lunch staple for many City goers.

On accidentally becoming a vegan foodie destination, Jonathan appears both surprised and excited:

"On our second day of opening, a vegan blogger visited the cafe and she asked us: “Oh is everything here vegan?” and before we hadn’t really thought of ourselves as a vegan restaurant but after that we loved the idea that everyone could enjoy our food whether they were vegan or meat lovers who, like me, just love hummus”.

In many ways what makes the Humpit stand out is their fresh, healthy food, which as well as being quietly vegan doesn’t shove it down your throat about being a health food, instead focusing on just creating tasty food served by a friendly face.

The falafel and hummus lends itself well to the street food style offering with everything handily fitting in a pitta pocket ready to grab and go. Humpit was one of the first venues in Leeds to bring street food to an indoor eatery setting and has in many ways set the precedent for other similar, popular venues in the City. Although they have a permanent residency, it’s important to Jonathan to still remain present on the street food scene and points to Belgrave as one of the most innovative street food events with the ‘right kind of clientele for street food’.

Jonathan credits events such as Belgrave for helping to build the Humpit name and he believes both word of mouth and branding have been pivotal in ensuring Humpit’s success. Much of their branding evolves round the infamous name of the joint which ensures you won’t forget it in a hurry:

"I always thought cheeky branding would go a long way. The name just came to me and I just thought I’ve got to go with it even though my friends and family tried to persuade me otherwise at first. They said it sounded like armpit or humping it! But people come here just to take pictures of the sign and that’s ideal from a marketing point of view - the name is a great talking point”.

Plus, the Corn Exchange provides the perfect home for the Humpit with its abundance of independents and matchless environment:

"The Corn Exchange really adds to the vibe of everything, it’s a quirky environment in a lovely setting and people love to hang around here. There are 30 independent shops; it’s the independent hub for businesses in Leeds really. We are one big family in here”.

Asking for his advice for new Indie start up businesses, Jonathan insists that branding is key:

"Keep your costs low, buy things second hand. We bought nearly everything here from charity shops including the chairs and furniture. Spend money on branding instead. Even if you’re small you can give the impression of looking big through branding”.

With some exciting things in the pipeline including the opening of their second venue in Sheffield in the new year, Jonathan continues to look ahead to the future with a Humpit empire that spreads across the big Northern cities. For some sinless January treats pop down to the Humpit open every day in the Corn Exchange.

By
Becky Peartree is our resident food writer and is in her final year at Leeds University where she studies English Literature.
Photography provided by Mark Wheelwright