“Wow, that was amazing—I had no idea vegan food was this good
Customer feedback at Pure Grit BBQ
Hey Kerry, tell us about your journey so far.
In summary – A long and winding road that leads to your door…. But, the Pure Grit BBQ journey so far has been a fun and exciting roller coaster. We started in 2020 when we were about to sign a lease for a Pure Grit BBQ restaurant in NYC, but COVID hit and we decided not to move forward. We faced the challenge of “how do we keep a brand alive during COVID?” That’s when we shifted to bottled sauces and rubs. The unique aspect of it? They were formulated specifically for plants, or plant-based BBQ foods. We were campaigning and convincing people that our brand was special all throughout 2020 and 2021. Luckily, Pure Grit BBQ got funded and we were able to open this incredible first-ever fast casual vegan BBQ restaurant in NYC in May 2022. It’s been an amazing experience thus far and we feel incredibly lucky to be in this position and to receive the feedback we always wanted from customers: “Wait… that was vegan AND gluten-free?”
How did you transition from an environmental economist to an entertainment and advertising person?
I let my heart lead and I took advantage of every contact and each and every connection. When a more interesting opportunity presented itself, I took it. Environmental economics lead to location management, which lead to celebrity housing, which lead to pairing celebrities with brands to advertising. It all made sense to me.
What inspired you to start Pure Grit BBQ, a vegan restaurant?
I wanted to create what I was missing in my life. I was working at an advertising agency when I met my soon-to-be business partner, Jenny Mauric. We ended up at SXSW for a work trip, and went out with colleagues for a BBQ. Of course, BBQ in Texas is amazing, the vibes, the food; it’s a great environment. I thought there must be a BBQ for vegetarians or vegans, because everything about BBQ is amazing.
What’s the story behind your journey to veganism? How would you describe the philosophy behind the food served at Pure Grit BBQ?
I say that I am AVAP – as vegan as possible. I spent my entire life slowly eliminating different foods – from meat at 10 years old, to shellfish at 35 years old, to chicken at 40 years old… and then all seafood and eggs.
What is your favorite dish at Pure Grit BBQ?
Every day it is something different: The Impossible Cut, Fried Daring Chicken, and Waffles, Nachos, and PG Signature Salad have been my top favorites lately.
Can a vegan diet be satisfying and healthy for someone who doesn’t want to eat meat or animal products?
Of course, we have to change the conversation. It is not about what you are losing or giving up, but rather that you are just choosing to eat differently. Protein will never be the issue.
For example, here is what one of our customers has to say about the same: “I’m a carnivore. The chicken and waffles were savory, the bacon was mesquite, and the tea was perfectly (but not overly) sweet. And somehow, none of it was meat, and all of it was delicious. They also give complimentary smarties and have great service. “
Another says, “What a friendly staff! so helpful! And the food is amazing! I couldn’t believe the Mac ‘n’ cheese was gluten-free. The best gluten-free pasta I’ve ever tried! I’ll be back the next time I’m in town. “
If you try it once, you’ll know.
It is not about what you are losing or giving up, but rather that you are just choosing to eat differently.
How did the recent NYC minimum wage hike affect your business?
Luckily, we opened after the hike, so we were able to budget for it.
What is a typical day like for you running Pure Grit BBQ?
We have an incredible GM who is also our chef—Emily Hersh, who was also a former Hell’s Kitchen contestant. She is there, running day-to-day. I am there often, but it can be all-consuming as I really enjoy being with the guests. When I work from home, I am able to focus on the big picture, increasing sales, partnerships, marketing, and expanding our reach.
How has your experience in the entertainment industry helped you in this role?
You never know what the day will bring, so I try to approach each day well-rested with curiosity and appreciation. I was able to meet with and partner with celebrity chefs to help me create what Pure Grit BBQ is today.
How would you describe your management style?
Sometimes letting go is the best way to gain perspective.
Kerry Fitzmaurice | CEO – PURE GRIT BBQ
Sometimes letting go is the best way to gain perspective. If you try to do everything yourself, you will drive yourself crazy, and you are denying your team a chance to shine.
How do you define success for a company like Pure Grit BBQ?
In summary, when our message of BBQ for all pulls through, we feel successful. We want all foodies to pull up a chair and enjoy great BBQ food, not just those who are vegan and gluten-free.
Some of my favorite feedback we’ve received includes:
“Very tasty BBQ that happens to be vegan and gluten-free. A real haven for those with special dietary needs. The standouts for us were the impossible meats. All the sides we sampled were yummy. Nice, casual outdoor seating area, perfect for families. Nothing was so spicy that my kids couldn’t eat it. Friendly staff, I will definitely return.
“This location exceeded all of my expectations! Amazing service combined with a delicious, vegan-friendly menu. The fried Daring Chicken Sandwich and kitchen sink cookie were winners in my book!! “
What do you find challenging about being a restaurant founder?
Creating a loyal customer base is not easy. It happens one meal, one customer at a time. Every day is a new set of challenges. Ensure you have an engaged community of support.
What are some of your goals for the future of the company?
I want to bring Pure Grit BBQ to everyone. After all, our slogan is “BBQ for all,” so I would love to be able to expand and have people all around the world try our food, not just New Yorkers, not just vegans, not just those with gluten allergies, but everyone!
What inspires you to do your work?
Knowing that we are creating and serving delicious food that just happens to be vegan and gluten-free makes me happy. When a carnivore says, “Wow, that was amazing—I had no idea vegan food was this good—that’s it for me.” Just eating a few plant-based meals a week is game-changing.
If you try to do everything yourself, you will drive yourself crazy, and you are denying your team a chance to shine.
About Kerry Fitzmaurice (CEO of Pure Grit BBQ):
After graduating from the University of Michigan and Yale, Kerry started her career as an environmental economist, but her creativity drew her to the entertainment industry and advertising, where she spent the last 25 years. She is back to her roots with Pure Grit, improving the health of the planet and people. Kerry lives in New York City with her daughter, where Kerry now runs Pure Grit BBQ, the first fast-casual vegan restaurant in NYC.
About Kerry & Jenny (Partners at Pure Grit BBQ):
Both Kerry and Jenny love food and became fast friends after meeting at an advertising agency in New York City. On a trip to Austin for SXSW, Kerry wondered if Vegan BBQ was a thing, and to her delight, it was. For the past three years, she has been testing recipes and building the team that could pull off Pure Grit BBQ. She and Jenny have been working on the brand and building a small but mighty community.
About restaurant (Pure Grit BBQ):
Pure Grit BBQ serves up delicious vegan BBQ with fresh spins on your BBQ favorites. Pure Grit is not about imitation, it’s about serving up good food that says exactly what it is. You’ll find everything from alternative proteins to pulled jackfruit, eggplant, and mushrooms on the menu. All are smoked in-house and slathered in the brand’s sauces and rubs that were developed and sold in 2020 right after the pandemic hit. The concept is fast-casual but the team hopes that the restaurant becomes a place where people want to stay for a while. Pure Grit’s mission is BBQ FOR ALL, or in other words, invite as many people to the table as possible. All eaters, all people who love great food.
Interviewer : Nidhi Mehta | Editor-in-Chief
Interviewee : Kerry Fitzmaurice | Cover Story ECLECTIC BRAINS July Issue 05 2022