Eleanor Laura Davan Mills exploded into the limelight in 2012 with her natural, plant-based recipe blog Deliciously Ella. She has since released two cookbooks, opened three delis, and launched a catering service a range of healthy snacks. Katie Pathiaki talks to her about her brand
Did you plan to join the hospitality industry when at school?
Not at all, it wasn’t something I’d ever thought about until I started learning to cook and Deliciously Ella took off. Once that had happened, it was the first thing I wanted to do so that I could share what I was doing with everyone.
What did you study?
History of art – it couldn’t be less related to what I do now! I think I took something away about communicating via imagery, as that’s such a big part of what we do and how we’ve grown – although we use social media and an iPhone rather than paintbrushes.
What was your first job in the hospitality industry?
Opening our first deli in December 2015. I had no idea what I was doing and learned more than I could have ever imagined in the first 48 hours. I’ve never had a buzz like it before though, I love it.
What is special about your brand?
It’s hard to say. I founded it in such a personal and open way and that’s something I’ve tried to continue as we’ve grown. I think the authenticity of the story is a big part of our success.
Do you think consumers are becoming more health conscious?
We’ve definitely seen that. The variety of our customers now is infinitely wider and more diverse than it was a few years ago – we’ve also seen a huge rise in the number of male customers who are interested in plant-based food.
What can businesses do to promote healthier, gluten-free food on the menu?
Make it interesting and make it delicious! No one wants to sacrifice flavour and enjoyment.
Has opening your own cafés been a steep learning curve?
More than I could have ever imagined. We launched our products business for retail soon after and the two together really threw me in at the deep end! There have been times where we thought we were going under and finding a route through that has been my biggest lesson yet.
What have you learned about the industry?
People are everything, that’s the key to making everything work. Having the right team is so important and empowering them with real autonomy to run things makes a huge difference, too.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
More product launches, menus and a book.
Do you have a motto?
You get back what you put in. The more time, care, love, energy and attention you put into anything in your life, the better it will be.
What is something you want to see happen in the next five years in the industry?
A bigger focus on sustainability. Almost all of our take-away packaging is compostable and non-plastic, but it’s tough to find, it’s not beautiful and it’s incredibly expensive.
Have you achieved your dream?
Not yet, each time I get near a goal I set a bigger one.
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