Last month, The Moveable Feast, an exciting Vegetarian food pop-up launched on Thomas Street, by London Bridge. And two food entrepreneurs who have got we foodies talking and tastebuds tingling, are Katie McDermott and Jane Whitehead, the owners of the oh so clever Not Dogs company.
Birmingham-born ‘Not Dogs’ was launched in May 2014 and is a ‘unique and modern offering of vegetarian hot dogs.’ You’ll find them topped with innovative, delicious and unique homemade toppings.
I’m extremely excited to be featuring a Q&A with Katie and Jane, who’ll explain how they launched this exciting food company, why their Not Dogs are not just for the vegetarians among us, plus the exciting summer they have ahead of them.
Enjoy the read – I hope you’re as inspired by these lovely ladies as I am.
Hi Katie and Jane. Can you explain to those who haven’t yet sunk their teeth into a Not Dog, what they are?
Not Dogs ‘Meaty Dogs without the Meat’ are a range of vegetarian hot dogs packed with unique veggie toppings. We created Not Dogs to satisfy both vegetarian and meat-eaters and are pleased to say that our Not Dogs are so tasty that at least a third of our meat-eating customers choose them over traditional meat hot dogs.
Customers can choose from our exciting Summer or Winter menu of high-quality products; ‘Plain Jane’, ‘Kickin’ Katie Nacho Dog’ ‘The Original Frank’ ‘Hello Houmous’ and ‘Top o’ the Mornin’ Dog’ to name a few – all using the UK’s only and first vegetarian Bratwurst sausage from Quorn.
What is the ethos of NotDogs?
At Not Dogs we’re very passionate about reducing meat consumption in the UK for both ethical and environmental reasons. We created Not Dogs to provide a delicious, tasty and substantial tasty treat that food lovers and vegetarians can trust and we are passionate about three things:
1. Putting vegetarians first with tasty food.
2. Providing meat-eaters with a compelling meat-free product.
3. Consistently exciting and delighting customers with our fun and innovative brand.
Some vegetarians have now been able to taste their first hot dog. For meat-eaters, they can now eat a meaty hot dog without worrying what might be in it.
We chose Quorn to be part of the Not Dogs journey because from both a meat-eater’s and vegetarian’s point of view, we loved using their meat-free products and fully support their work around sustainability and the environment.
What were you both doing before you launched Not Dogs?
Katie had been working in PR for seven years in London and Birmingham and Jane had been working in social media at the agency they met at. We always used to come up with ideas for new businesses to work on. At the end of 2012, we launched our first social media training company ‘Katie and Jane‘. And since then we’ve gone on to launch our first app, an online social media hub and even a temporary fashion tattoo range called Tiny Temporary Tattoos. So we’ve always had the entrepreneurial flair within us!
Where did the idea for Not Dogs come from?
Jane is a proud vegetarian and spotted a gap in the market at UK festivals and outdoor events for quality, trustworthy yet satisfying vegetarian ‘fast-food’.
Katie is a meat-reducer, regularly topping up her meals with Quorn and is especially quality conscious when it comes to hot dogs. Feeling frustrated at the lack of trustworthy meaty meals and mouth-watering veggie food while out and about, we decided to disrupt the fast food market with our ‘meaty dogs without the meat’.
We decided to contact Quorn to see if we could meet them and tell them our idea. Since then, we’ve found ourselves on a very exciting journey that we have no intention of stopping!
Which topping/flavour is your favourite?
Katie: Mine has to be my very own creation; Kickin’ Katie Nacho Dog, designed for those who like a little spice on top of their Not Dog. Kickin’ Quorn Bratwurst topped with guacamole, grated cheddar cheese, crushed nachos and pickled jalapenos.
Jane: My favourite Not Dog is Hello Houmous – I’m a big fan of houmous but was still surprised to discover, when testing new recipes, that houmous is simply amazing on a hot dog! Houmous, topped with the sweetness of the roasted red peppers and tangy smoked paprika is my perfect Not Dog!
Where did you first start selling NotDogs?
Once the idea for Not Dogs was created in early 2014, we wanted to get out to as many places as possible to see if people loved the concept as much as us, so we invested our own money and took Not Dogs to five major festivals in our first year including Lovebox and Festival Number 6, finishing the year at Oxford Christmas Market.
We were very pleased with the fantastic reception we received from customers and press so couldn’t give up on the idea!
Where can people find you now?
We are currently within a little ‘pop-up’ shop – The Moveable Feast – underneath The Shard until the end of May, before getting in our purple food truck again and embarking on another tour of UK festivals, including V Festival and Lovebox, London again this year.
For the last two and a half years we have blogged about things that inspire us, whether that be foodie endeavours, holiday spots or favourite apps. We also use the blog to chat about our businesses, things we’ve learnt along the way and to transfer our knowledge on things like social media too!
What do you think is the key for a successful food pop-up in London?
The pop-up concept is as much about offering something customers can’t get anywhere else as it is about the short amount of time you are there for. We know that our exclusive use of the Quorn Bratwurst and our unique, homemade toppings are exciting for customers, and we know how important it is to consistently provide them with choice.
Customer experience is paramount too. So if you can offer an experience that gets people talking and is true to the brand, then word-of-mouth combined with a great location will help. Plus, the more clever you can be with your marketing, the better!
Since the launch, who have been your biggest critics?
Not Dogs has gained amazing feedback from customers and positive press from Elle Magazine, BBC Radio, Women’s Health, The Grocer, The Evening Standard, Time Out, Fabulous Magazine and Stylist Magazine who named us as one of the 30 most inspirational women in the UK, more than we ever imagined!
We were also lucky enough to be the runner-up in the ‘Tastiest Startup’ category of the Virgin Food Festival in 2014 so impressing the judges there was a big deal for us. Along with Richard Branson, Paul Lindley from the children’s food brand Ella’s Kitchen was there and we were so excited when he tried a Hello Houmous Not Dog and loved it! That was a big moment for us.
Saying this, after our customers (this is who we truly care about the most!) we really want to consistently impress Quorn, who have been such a great support to us.
When you’re not eating NotDogs, what are your favourite foodie places in London?
We held a celebratory night at Bermondsey’s Jose which was incredible, and we are addicted to The Watch House where we often stop for coffee en route to London Bridge. The coffee, porridge and almond croissants are to die for!
What are your long-term plans for NotDogs?
We’d love to take Not Dogs to the masses, and overseas too. Long-term we’d like to see a Not Dogs offering in every major city of the UK and of course we never want to stop touring the UK (and hopefully Europe soon!) in our eye-catching purple zig-zagged food truck!
We’ll continue to create and invent lots of new menu additions, some of which we’ll be launching this summer. Thanks to some amazing social media feedback from fans and press attention we will now be catering at some exciting launch parties and corporate events in 2015 where we will be trialling some bespoke Not Dog recipes, and pushing the boundaries of what we can top our ‘meaty-dogs-without-the-meat’ with!
Huge thank you to Katie and Jane for taking part in this Q&A for Oh So London. For full details on their menu and whereabout, check out their website NotDogs.co.uk, follow them on twitter, instagram and Facebook.
Until next time x
Have you had a Not Dog? If so, what did you think? Leave your comments below!