Plant Sumo emerged as one of Pearl Lemon Catering’s most innovative ventures, exemplifying a bold step into the burgeoning field of plant-based cuisine. The inception of this unique project traces back to a seemingly mundane setting—a McDonald’s—where two food enthusiasts, Deepak and his friend nicknamed “Sprouts,” connected over their shared culinary passions.

Deepak and Sprouts identified a significant market need during their casual meetup: accessible, healthy, and convenient plant-based food options. Recognizing the growing trend towards healthier eating and the increasing demand for vegetarian and vegan options, they saw an opportunity to fill this gap meaningfully.

Their conversation quickly evolved into action, laying the groundwork for Plant Sumo. This service was designed to cater to the diverse dietary needs of Londoners, delivering nutritious, plant-based meals directly to customers’ doors. Plant Sumo’s mission was to make vegan food appealing and accessible to a broad audience, not just those who already followed a plant-based diet.

The foundation of Plant Sumo was the idea that healthy food should be as enticing as it is beneficial. Focusing on rich flavours, diverse ingredients, and creative recipes, Plant Sumo aimed to challenge the misconceptions surrounding plant-based diets and introduce a wider audience to their potential delights.

Deepak and Sprouts starting from an ordinary meeting, Deepak and Sprouts used their shared vision to create something extraordinary: a business that addresses a growing health trend and promotes sustainability and a healthier lifestyle through delicious, plant-based meals. Their journey from a fast-food restaurant to the forefront of health-conscious entrepreneurship underscores the impact of innovative thinking and a passion for making a positive difference in the food industry.

Before Plant Sumo

As Deepak began his journey towards starting a food business, he knew that he needed to do his due diligence and gather as much information as possible before making big decisions.

He started by speaking with a local restaurant owner to learn about the capital costs involved in setting up a restaurant and how marketing works in the industry. Deepak also contacted friends who might know some restaurant owners and chatted with a restaurant launch consultant to gain further insights.

In addition to these conversations, Deepak turned to Google and sought advice from people in the industry who had experience running their own food businesses. One particularly helpful person was Kat, who had run a cafe in Italy for several months. She provided Deepak with tons of excellent advice and insights that he wouldn’t have been able to find on his own.

Another person who was instrumental in Deepak’s research was “Sprouts”. They had met at JRK Kitchen and since met several times to discuss the possibility of working together on something. Although nothing concrete materialized, “Sprouts” had a wealth of experience in the food game, having started and closed another restaurant venture called Wing Jam. He was entirely self-taught and passionate about food, making him an ideal person to seek advice from.

Deepak and “Sprouts” discussed various ideas for a food business, including getting a stall, a van, and a popup for Sita’s Way. While Deepak considered opening a restaurant during Covid-19, the general consensus was that it might not be the best idea. Deepak’s fiance’s family friends who ran pizzerias in Italy warned him that a labour of love required passion and determination. Although the idea and capital costs (going up to 100k) meant that it was an idea to ‘plan in 2020’ and launch in 2021.

Overall, Deepak’s thorough approach to researching and planning his food business demonstrates his passion and determination to make it successful. With careful planning, research, and execution, he can turn his vision into a reality.

The Scope of Work

With a budget of £15,000, the Plant Sumo project embarked on its mission to revolutionize the food delivery industry by offering healthy, plant-based options to people in the comfort of their own homes. Despite the challenging circumstances posed by the COVID-19 epidemic, the team remained determined to provide nutritious and delicious meals to individuals looking to adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

This project had a focus on:

  • Developing a fully plant-based menu
  • Ensuring all options were vegan or vegetarian
  • Finding a kitchen space to create our dishes
  • Find a chef willing to do this full-time
  • Build a website, YouTube channel/podcase series and social media profiles
  • Figure out the logistics of transporting meal kits safely (temperature and spill-wise)
  • Finding the best containers that were eco-friendly and affordable

Costing the Ingredients and Equipment

Costing the ingredients and equipment for the Plant Sumo project was crucial in establishing a sustainable and profitable business model. It required meticulous research and careful consideration to ensure that the products sourced met the highest quality standards while aligning with the project’s budgetary constraints.

Finding our equipment and ingredient suppliers was one of the more difficult parts of the initial business setup. 

It required us to undertake extensive research and invest considerable effort to find the best products at the most competitive price while avoiding the risk of burning through the budget too fast.

Food Sourcing

The Plant Sumo team had local in mind. They wanted all products to come from local shops or suppliers as close to them.

This reinforced the “local is best” mentality the team wanted when developing the business.

To ensure the quality of their produce, the team took a hands-on approach. They tested the quality of the produce at all the nearby shops and priced out dried items to find the happy medium between high quality and finding the most affordable.

After about two weeks, the Plant Sumo team pinpointed the suppliers they would partner with for all consumables. 

By forging these partnerships, Plant Sumo not only gained access to a reliable and consistent supply of ingredients but also contributed to the growth and prosperity of local businesses.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Designing the Menu

The Plant Sumo founders had one thing in mind – plant-based, affordable and have a global influence.

We spent hours in the kitchen daily testing recipes, making variations and trying to pinpoint the best flavour for each dish.

The team started out in a home kitchen to start initial experimentation before we secured the dark kitchen location.

As our journey into the realm of vegan options, ingredients, and alternatives unfolded, we swiftly realized that texture would play a pivotal role in shaping our menu. We understood that to captivate the taste buds of our customers, achieving the perfect balance of textures was crucial.

For instance, we recognized that delightful, crispy katsu is universally adored. However, we needed to avoid the common pitfall of using oil-soaked breading that fails to adhere properly. Not only would this compromise the overall appeal of the dish, but it would also undermine its healthiness. 

After all, who wants an aubergine that acts as nothing more than an oil sponge, detracting from the intended flavours and nutritional benefits?

Throughout this creative process, we were fortunate to experience seemingly endless family-style meals. This was a delightful consequence of our commitment to minimizing waste. We revelled in the joy of communal dining while simultaneously fine-tuning our recipes and techniques.

These shared meals allowed us to nourish ourselves and indulge in the fruits of our labour, but they also served as invaluable moments for experimentation and feedback. Each bite taken and every expression of satisfaction or constructive criticism offered fueled our passion for perfecting our vegan offerings. 

Through these moments of togetherness, we harnessed our team’s collective wisdom and discerning palates, resulting in constant refinement and improvement.

Pursuing impeccable texture became an all-encompassing quest as we delved deeper into the intricacies of vegan cuisine. We eagerly explored innovative cooking techniques, experimented with alternative ingredients, and collaborated with culinary experts specialising in achieving exquisite textures in plant-based dishes. Our relentless dedication to this pursuit led us to uncover ingenious methods to create crispy, tender, and mouthwatering textures that could rival their non-vegan counterparts.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Ultimately, our commitment to texture went beyond mere aesthetics or sensory appeal. It became a cornerstone of our culinary philosophy, a testament to our unwavering dedication to providing our customers with exceptional vegan dining experiences. By prioritising the art of texture in our menu offerings, we ensured that each bite was not only a delight to the palate but also an affirmation of our commitment to crafting healthy, flavorful, and indulgent vegan cuisine.


After several weeks of trial and error and deciding the best flavours, we put together the following menu.

All About Dat Katsu-

A vegan aubergine dish—delicious aubergine coated in crisp, golden panko breadcrumbs, marinated in authentic miso, and laid upon a bed of the softest Cali jasmine rice. You’ll be mad for our katsu. This gleaming dish is smothered in our starring ingredient, a divine loaded pepper and potato katsu sauce.

Thai Oasis-

Who can resist a good Thai curry – Organic jasmine rice sets the stage for an authentic and vibrant blend of fresh courgette, bamboo shoots, baby corn, sugar snap peas and rainbow peppers. All mixed into a mouth-watering Thai-inspired blend of seven explosive spices.

Soul Curry-

A more savoury curry option- A heavenly mixture of sweet potato chunks, spinach, banana shallots, soft chickpeas and black beluga lentils, all drenched in a mild yet tempting tikka sauce and served with organic fluffy jasmine rice, a pinch of fresh coriander and crushed cashew nuts.

Seitan Stir-Fry-

A great stir-fry is a must- Our spicy and sweet orange and chilli Seitan is accompanied by shiitake and oyster mushrooms, spring onion, baby corn, beansprout, peppers and ginger, which sits atop a bed of yummy egg-less noodles. Finished off with a glistening red chilli glaze, add some spice to your life with our sensational stir-fry dish.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Nuts on Tempeh-

A protein-packed option- This nutty dish is an eclectic mix of shaved coconut, shredded kale, courgette, pineapple and golden oven-baked tempeh, all lovingly placed on top of noodles. Garnished with a peanut satay sauce, crushed peanuts and fresh spring onion, this tempeh will surely get you tempted.

Salsa State Burrito-

A delicious southwest option, Smoked paprika, roasted peppers, sweet red onion, and re-fried red kidney beans steal the show. They are bound up in a delicious wheat wrap and finished off with tangy coriander, cherry tomato, and red onion salsa.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Kimchi Bao Buns-

A beautiful bao classic—beautifully steamed fluffy bao buns stuffed with messy and delectable kimchi, beetroot, and broad bean patty with a side of zingy and delightfully crunchy slaw. This healthy, fresh, and mood-boosting addition to any midweek menu is sure to overshadow any sandwich you’ve ever had.

Sumo Squash-

A comforting classic- Roasted kabocha squash and brown lentil stew, skin on sweet potato, caramelised red onions and mash.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Marinara V Balls-

An Italian classic- A plant-based spaghetti bolognese even an Italian grandma would say ‘Bellissimo’ to. A flavourful fusion of Seitan, tofu, cannelloni beans, and mushroom makes up our meatless meatball, tenderly cooked alongside wholemeal penne pasta in a rich red arrabbiata sauce.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Better Not Gnocci-

A protein-packed potato dish, the iconic Italian potato pasta is stuffed with soft, delicious pumpkin, smothered in a creamy mushroom and wild garlic sauce, and topped off with diced butternut squash. It’s a carby delight that will put a smile on your face. Don’t ‘gnocchi’ it until you try it.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Tuck In Tagine-

We wanted the tagine to be bright, bold, and flavourful—our take on the magnificent Moroccan tagine. It’s a magical medley of steamed giant couscous, Mediterranean vegetables, sweet apricot and dates, Kalamata spiced olives, and just a hint of aromatic saffron (fancy!).

Bringing Back Da Mac-

Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food- The iconic macaroni shell is given a kick with a creamy blend of pureed pumpkin and garlic, fiery mustard grains and sweet shallots.

Pumpkin Pancakes-

Pancakes are a breakfast staple, but we wanted to do it better. This great stack is the definition of indulgence, and it is made of fresh almond milk and pumpkin goodness. It’s topped off with sticky maple syrup, sweet blueberries and- the big finisher, a decadent pumpkin puree.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Overnight Oats-

Oatmeal is the start to the perfect day—hearty overnight oats made with sweet almond milk and jam-packed with texture and flavour. Fantastically fruity, this dish is brimming with dried cranberries, dried apricots, sultanas, and delicately grated apples, all blended with filling oats and the satisfying crunch of linseeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Tropical Quinoa-

Our take on the viral grain-based pudding- Exploding with desiccated coconut, ripe mango and a sprinkling of chia seeds, all these delicious ingredients are seated on the finest white quinoa, all brought together with a splash of delicious coconut milk.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study


The Plant Sumo team approached the launch of their plant-based food delivery service with remarkable efficiency and determination, quickly making significant strides in multiple areas to establish their brand presence and operational infrastructure.

During the initial weeks of the project, the team was intensely focused on developing a compelling and diverse menu that would appeal to a broad audience. This involved meticulous designing, testing and refining each dish to ensure it met their high standards for taste, nutrition, and presentation. This phase was critical as the menu is central to a food service’s appeal, especially in the competitive plant-based market where uniqueness and quality are key differentiators.

Concurrently, the team set up social media pages to build an online presence and engage with potential customers. These platforms generated excitement and anticipation about the launch, shared behind-the-scenes content, and educated the audience about the benefits of plant-based eating. This early engagement was vital for establishing a community around Plant Sumo, even before the first meal was delivered.

In addition to social media, the team launched a podcast. This platform was used to discuss topics related to plant-based diets and sustainability and to further deepen the connection with their audience by exploring broader issues within the food industry, wellness, and environmental impact.

Finding a suitable kitchen space was another crucial step that was quickly accomplished. Since Plant Sumo was exclusively a delivery service, there was no need for a traditional restaurant setup, which streamlined the launch process significantly. Securing a kitchen that could handle the volume and complexity of their operations without the additional overhead of a dining area allowed them to focus resources on food quality and delivery logistics.

This rapid progress in the early stages of Plant Sumo’s development demonstrated the team’s commitment and capability and positioned them effectively in the competitive landscape of London’s food delivery services, with a strong foundation built on innovation, quality, and community engagement.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

We enjoyed working with the Plant Sumo team on menus and plans. As the team streamlined its operations and built momentum, it expanded its offerings beyond meal kits. 

Leveraging their culinary expertise and innovative approach to plant-based cooking, they curated customized menus that catered to specific events and workplaces, providing delicious and nutritious plant-based meals to a wider customer base.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Hiring and Training

We had a variety of team members to gather for this project. The most important thing was a passion for plant-based food. We had to hire:

  • Chefs
  • Nurtitionist
  • Photographer
  • Social Media Manager

The initial hiring portion of the project meant finding a photographer who could be available consistently and an experienced chef willing to join a new food business.

For the first, we headed to all the freelancer gig platforms plus places like Indeed to make job posts. We ended up with close to 150 applicants of that half were interviewed because they needed to be local and have transportation (whether it was a car, bike or Uber)

After interviews and a couple of test shoots, we chose a few different photographers to use, so we had options based on their availability. One was below, and often, we would have two come to the same event to get more variety in photo styles and simply more photos done.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Next was a chef. This was a harder position to recruit for because talent comes at a higher cost, and many chefs did not want to leave the stability of a job they had been at for a while for a new business.

Our first job ads went up on Gumtree. We only had to pay about six quid to get the ad up and started getting applications within a few minutes.

After struggling with medium application rates and some slow reply rates we found a great chef that was willing to work with us and participate in conversation. He made all the dishes from our featured photos.

We ended up with 3 very solid chefs we met up for interviews. We gave them a more open-ended final interview question: “Show us three items you would add to the vegan menu.” This got some interesting responses that also gave alot of inspiration to menu items to include.

We also had the added benefit of being funded and run by our marketing agency “parent”. This meant we could involve a variety of people without having additional costs. We had content team members writing blogs and producing videos. We had a web team and a design team involved. We initially had the operations director involved to help coordinate things.

One big hire position that set us apart was that we hired a nutritionist to have on staff. This meant we could have someone give the exact nutritional breakdowns of our dishes so we knew we were providing the very best.

The Legal Stuff

Legal “stuff” was a long, detailed process. It was mission-critical not to miss anything to avoid delays in our grand opening or risking the potential of being shut down.

The first was applying for a food license. This meant:

  1. At least one person needed a level 3 food hygiene certification (this took 5 hours per person). A Manager needs to have level 3, but the rest of the staff don’t technically need one as it’s assumed they are taught. We had a great benefit of having staff who already had this license. This meant less work for us. 
  2. We needed to have public liability insurance (this meant hunting and getting quotes). Due to serving food, we needed close to 1 million in coverage for public liability. We had to ensure that if anyone got sick, we would be safe.
  3. We had to build a fire safety analysis (to prove we were safe). This was a surprisingly tough document to build as we had to show everything was up to code and fully mapped out. We ended up using a “dark kitchen” of sorts, so we were provided a layout with everything needed, so this step was a breeze.
  4.  We had to build a HACCP (this  over 50-page document was built to show we can handle any issue or potential hazard from mould to spoilage to fire or flood) If there could be a contaminant, we had to list what it was, how it could happen and how to prevent and handle the situation- from chemicals to glass to illness and everything in between. The HACCP is designed to prove that you know how to handle anything that could happen.

  5. Prove we have a waste and rubbish contract. This was simple, as with the fire analysis, this was already in place for us. So we needed a copy.

While that is just five core items, it took nearly a week to get together and apply. It was a lengthy process. It was more difficult than some other jobs because our location was registered, but some agencies wanted it to be under our name, so there were a lot of hurdles to jump over.

Another legal item that came next was registering our logo as a trademark so no one could pretend to be us. We used Looka to create our logo, and our co-founder initially pitched the idea of a sumo dude for the logo.

Online and Offline Marketing Efforts

Plant Sumo’s marketing efforts were strategically led by its dedicated SEO team, whose expertise provided them with an astronomical competitive advantage in the ever-growing plant-based food industry. 

The team created a Google My Business profile, directory listings, and more. We then kept it active and really pushed for reviews. (we will go over reviews a bit more later)

We also got our PR team involved to get guest posts, blogs, podcasts and other features out there to boost our brand name. Through these efforts, we also got a handful of plant-based influencers on the Plant Sumo podcast. We would also send out some sample boxes to get user generated content to post and reshare on socials and video testimonials to post on our Youtube channel and website.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

You can find our channel by searching “Plant Sumo” on Youtube, but you can also watch our pre-launch series here: Video 

The combination of high quality, consistent SEO work and PR work helped us hit the ground running so we could develop a sustainable business model.

Part of our marketing strategy also included a competitor analysis and review.

This meant checking out the local competition and then ordering boxes from other companies. We would then do an unboxing video and food review. This was meant to show that “you have other options, but listen to the difference in taste and quality.”

In addition, it helped inspire us to think about what we could do better and what we were already doing well.

A few months into the project, we aimed to start running Instagram ads to promote the subscription model.

Something unique we also did was register and start building a directory for health and fitness instructors. The goal was to build a platform for people to be on if they were nutritionists, fitness instructors and more so we could really boost our fitness mindset.

One other big piece of the puzzle in our online marketing efforts was launching a blog.

You can find it here:

This blog was built to help us with our SEO and keyword positioning and give our customers free added value. Something we found our competitors lacking was information.

I.e. you have your meal kit, so that is all- good luck with the rest

The reality is when switching to a plant-based diet, people still need help and inspiration on their new dietary journey. The Plant Sumo blog became a resource guide on recipes, food to try and how to make the most of your new plant-based diet.

Ranking Locally

Developing a comprehensive local marketing matrix proved to be a pivotal advantage for our company, enabling us to outshine and outrank all of our competitors in the region. We employed many ingenious strategies, each meticulously designed to maximise our visibility and appeal to the local community.

We ended up finding a dark kitchen in Acton. This made it so we could register a Google My Business profile to that address and outrank the competition there as a start.

To further solidify our position as a local authority, we embarked on an extensive research initiative, delving deep into the fabric of the community. This endeavor allowed us to identify potential partnerships with local businesses and schools, enabling us to collaborate on special events and initiatives that resonated with the community at large. In addition, we made a concerted effort to establish ourselves on numerous loyalty platforms, both virtual and physical. By offering loyalty programs and distributing loyalty cards, we expanded our reach far beyond what any of our competitors could achieve, effectively extending our influence throughout the community.

Another vital aspect of our local ranking strategy involved active involvement in associations and clubs. By becoming part of these networks, our name spread far and wide, reaching diverse circles and garnering invaluable exposure. Moreover, we were fortunate to have a Pearl Lemon team member who boasted connections to various political parties in London. Leveraging these connections, we secured even greater exposure, propelling our brand into the spotlight and reinforcing our reputation within the community.

Embracing the power of online platforms, we capitalized on influential websites such as Glassdoor, Nextdoor, Yell, Yelp, and more. Leveraging these platforms, we achieved an astounding level of visibility, rapidly accumulating a loyal following and amplifying our presence throughout the local landscape.

Understanding the significance of local PR, we spared no effort in ensuring our brand was visible on multiple fronts. This included securing publications in local newspapers and prints, which served as a tangible testament to our presence in the community. Furthermore, we actively pursued opportunities to be featured on numerous online publications, harnessing the power of digital media to extend our reach and reinforce our credibility among the local audience.

Through the harmonious convergence of these multifaceted strategies, our company emerged as a dominant force in the local market, establishing a strong foothold that set us apart from our competitors. Our relentless pursuit of visibility, strategic partnerships, and active community engagement propelled us to the forefront of the local business landscape, cementing our reputation as a trusted and respected brand within the hearts and minds of the community.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Plant Sumo’s success can be attributed in part to the support of its parent company, a marketing agency. This strategic alliance provided the Plant Sumo team with valuable knowledge on the importance of an exceptional review system in attracting new customers and achieving their mission.

To enhance their online presence and reputation, Plant Sumo collaborated closely with their dedicated SEO and PR teams. They developed a comprehensive strategy that included distributing product samples to influential individuals to generate widespread exposure and accumulate positive 5-star reviews. However, they didn’t stop there. 

They leveraged their SEO expertise to optimize the company’s search engine rankings by crafting unique and distinctive review responses.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

This approach proved highly effective in a market flooded with various meal subscription kits. Plant Sumo’s ability to secure genuine 5-star reviews from respected influencers played an instrumental role in their remarkable growth trajectory. 

The trust and admiration fostered through these endorsements further bolstered their reputation and instilled confidence in potential customers, ultimately solidifying Plant Sumo’s position as a standout player in the industry.

In addition to their online presence, Plant Sumo also made strides in getting listed on food delivery platforms like Deliveroo.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Although it was a bit of a struggle, they were eventually able to get listed and started receiving orders. While orders were slow at first, they were able to attract a couple of repeat customers on the platform with 5-star reviews.

Plant Sumo’s success can be attributed to their strategic approach to marketing and their commitment to providing exceptional service and products. 

Through collaboration with their parent company and dedicated teams, they were able to establish a strong online presence and secure positive reviews from respected influencers. By leveraging their SEO expertise, they were able to multiply the benefits of these reviews and solidify their position as a standout player in the industry.

Plant Sumo- Plant Based Meal Delivery Service Case Study

Hurdles and Obstacles


Hiring was the biggest challenge throughout this project. Finding a chef with experience willing to jump off the proverbial deep end to join us was a definite challenge. We stuck with it and were able to bring someone in, but it got a bit disheartening at times to see low application rates paired with even lower reply rates.

Deliveroo and Uber Eats:

Like many other gigs we have done, we wanted to be on Deliveroo and Uber Eats to help get us going. This was a huge struggle for us because we used a dark kitchen. This means the kitchen had the food hygiene rating and everything under its own name, but the licensing authority and the platforms said it had to be under our own name. This was a bit of a struggle because we wanted to keep up with things properly.

We figured it out. Below is a photo we snapped packing up some orders once we were live.

Internal Communication:

The Plant Sumo team was small and rather tight-knit, but most team members had different experience levels and ideas for what should be done with the company, menu and more. This divergence of perspectives initially led to challenges and friction within the team dynamics. 

However, recognizing the importance of clear and open communication, the team implemented frequent calls to address concerns, iron out differences, and foster a more collaborative and cohesive environment. 

Over time, these communication efforts effectively aligned the team’s vision, streamed operations, and created a more fluid and harmonious work dynamic.

The Outcome

Following its official launch, Plant Sumo experienced remarkable success, with our website becoming a hub for sample box requests and catering inquiries, facilitated through various contact forms. 

We got an interesting kitchen space that we rented by the table, allowing us to utilize the exact space we needed for food preparation and assembly.

As the brand continued to flourish, the Plant Sumo team realized the need to expand operations throughout London. To meet the growing demand for delicious plant-based meals, we actively sought out talented chefs and additional kitchen spaces to accommodate our expansion plans.

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