It’s no secret that Melburnians enjoy a great food scene and have high standards when it comes to menu design and produce quality.
EARL Canteen, launched in 2010 and today is not only surviving but thriving with six locations in Melbourne’s CBD and a roaring lunchtime gourmet sandwich trade.
I first visited ‘EARL’ in early 2011. The lunch spot was recommended to me in hushed tones reminding, in the way one might impart a secret or a perhaps a hot tip – and I was instantly intrigued.
My curiousity was soon rewarded, after sampling their (now rather famous) pork belly sandwich I was recommending EARL to all who would listen.
So it with great delight I connected with this month’s Mount Zero Hero and EARL’s ‘head food nerd’ Jackie Middleton to learn more about their sandwich business.
Jackie, thanks for speaking to us today – what attracted you to the EARL business model?
I opened the first EARL Canteen in 2010 with Simon O’Regan (who’s industry credentials include Rockpool, Attica, Circa the Prince and the Stokehouse).
Simon and I had both worked with some of Melbourne’s best chefs and restauranteurs and we saw a niche opportunity to take restaurant quality menu items off the plate and serve them in the humble sandwich.
From day one, EARL sought to compete on sandwich quality as a means of differentiating other lunch spots in the CBD.
I like the description humble sandwich, but personally I think they steal the lunch time show!
Your rapidly expanding business is proof that EARL‘s menu design is attractive to the hordes of people; do you think you attract any particular type pf customers?
Our customers come from all walks of life and many different industries. Lawyers, bankers, creatives. We attract loyal customers who are working in the immediate vicinity. Those who like a good reliable haunt - hence the name EARL ‘Canteen'.
And what feedback do you hear from your regulars?
In addition to their favourite order, they often comment on how much they love our staff. They come for a coffee or lunch and leave with a smile, which makes me happy - customer experience is where it’s at.
EARL has a great (an enticing) motto - ‘if it is sold today, it was made today’. Where do you source your fresh produce?
We work with a wonderful group of local suppliers who strive to bring us the very best they can.
And we are pleased you consider Mount Zero Olives one of them – what Mount Zero product do you use the most?
Chickpeas! Actually LOTS OF CHICKPEAS!
At EARL we go through over 1 1/2 tonnes of Mt Zero chickpeas every year!
They are the base for our hazelnut hummus in which we soak, cook and blend twice weekly. We also use Mt Zero chickpeas as a delicious and healthful component in many of our salads.
The time taken to soak and cook chickpeas is such a worthwhile investment in amazing flavour and texture over an imported tinned product.
Your hummus is special indeed - and Mount Zero customers, be sure to drop into one of EARL’s Canteens this month and pick up a complimentary hummus recipe card - which features a free shipping code for the Mt Zero website.
Jackie, thanks for making the time this month or for providing a special offer to Mount Zero customers.
One final question – each month month we add to the Mount Zero foodie’s ‘bucket list’.
What would be on your foodie bucket list?
Definitely the original white-cut Sichuan chicken & noodle dish from Golden Fields.
I remember serving very early versions of this at Mrs Jones restaurant; which I managed in the mid-Noughties.
Thanks again Jackie.