EN ROOT, based in the leafy South London suburbs, champions plant-powered goodness, knocking out vegan fare inspired by bold and exciting Indian flavours. The team are part of American Express Shop Small, encouraging Brits to support small businesses. We chatted to EN ROOT about their humble beginnings and how the restaurant has adapted during the pandemic:

What does EN ROOT offer?

EN ROOT offers a fresh, flavoursome dining experience with our Indian Inspired Vegan Food Concept. With a restaurant in SW4 where Clapham meets Brixton, a food truck which ventures across town serving events/markets/festivals our ‘Plant Powered Goodness’ and a homemade range of hot sauces (RAJA BONNET SAUCE!) we have something for everyone, everywhere. Vegan curry, daily dhal, rainbow salad, wraps, dosas, Indian street snacks and sweet treats make up the menu with some uplifting beverages to wash out the heart!

Photo Credit: Lewis Khan

 What is the story of your business? Can you tell us anything interesting about EN ROOT’s history that our readers might find interesting?

The story is winding, wonderful and oh so unique! A humble pop up in Herne Hill began the venture as three post-grad South Londoners aimed to bring healthy plant-based food to the area in February 2016. A pop-up turned heads and we got approached by festivals, musicians and markets to take our offerings further. Cue food truck and serving some musical inspirations at various festivals! We #keepitkinetic and decided a premise would be next and by May 2019 we opened on Clapham Park Road. Forwards Ever Backwards Never is the motto so a new larger social space base is on the cards and Sauce developments to make our ‘RAJA BONNET SAUCE’ a household name.

Why are you involved with the American Express Shop Small campaign?

The American Express Shop Small campaign is a great chance for big players to understand and encourage the positive changes within our society on the back end of the pandemic. With its focus on smaller businesses and consuming locally the campaign reinforces how important this support is and the financial incentive is a great way to encourage it. It really helps businesses like ourselves, slowly getting back to busier times!

Why is it important to support small businesses?

Small business is what we celebrate and with our ongoing connection and participation in independent markets, we know the importance of supporting people’s businesses. There is no greater feeling than seeing money spent making smiles and this is a key part of what we love with small businesses. You are investing in someone their idea, passion and plan. For our society to build, support at the grassroots is where we need to stand firm and EN ROOT is proudly part of a community thriving from local support.

Who would you recommend to shop small?

Shop Small is for everyone who cares about individuals and their journeys. With shop Small, we see where our money goes and consumers benefit from high quality and a personal connection. It offers people the chance to build relationships with their local communities.

What benefit do you see from the Shop Small offer/how does it benefit the local community?

Shop Small helps the local community by building the local economy. The knock on effect is incredible as local expenditure tends to stay local and positively support the community. The campaign has massive potential to increase individuals’ focus in consuming local, thus helping local businesses survive the effects of the pandemic and move forward slowly with positivity.

If you remained open during lockdown, what was it like?

We remained very much open and proactive throughout lockdown not just for the business’ sake but also to support our local community. The day after ‘lockdown’ we began serving our area with fruit & veg boxes with free South London delivery. This built a demand for other food essentials and it was humbling to be able to maintain a service that was pertinent and necessary during the pandemic lockdown. We opened for collection/takeaway during the weekends and we used our restaurant to stockpile essentials and cook free meals for local key workers directly with NHS Community Centres and HM Prison Brixton. With our healthy goodness we helped support balanced immune systems. The time was also a chance to focus on other aspects of our business and we launched two new hot sauce varieties which proved popular as we celebrate Raja Bonnet consumption to boost mood, health and immune systems.

Photo Credit: Lewis Khan

If you remained closed during lockdown, how did you feel when you reopened?

When we opened for sit in service and on a more permanent basis, the positivity of our community to our lockdown efforts was overwhelming. We had new faces who we had been supporting with veg boxes and our regulars who were happy to eat our notorious food that they had been missing. Furthermore, it brought a great sense of joy for us to accommodate friendly faces and hungry customers and maintain a sense of normality, as food is a means of connection and a point of communication which everyone had been missing out on. Reopening brought a sense of light and love about what we do, how we do and where we go!

How did lockdown affect your business?

Lockdown ultimately caused difficulties for our busy summer, as we had planned to attend 16 festivals, 5 weddings and a number of London events and markets which is the bulk of our business. However, our ability to adapt and show up in times of adversity with our #situationsolution mentality brought new focus and ideas, showing the true colours of an entrepreneur. We survived with our alternate offerings, our community focus and online trade with our veg boxes and new sauce launches. We had time and means to launch our eagerly awaited trio of Raja Bonnet Sauce; The Original (8% Scotch Bonnet); The Lime & Ginger (4% Scotch Bonnet); The Fyah Fyah (16% Scotch Bonnet). Our business is very much about the community and serving in any way we could to help others was where we maintained our focus and we really felt the joy when giving, after all, giving is receiving!

Credit: En Root are participating in American Express Shop Small. American Express has brought forward its annual Shop Small Offer, giving Cardmembers a £5 statement credit when they spend £10 or more in any participating small business across the country until 13 September 2020. For more information visit: americanexpress.co.uk/shopsmall