We first met the guys behind Wise Boys Burgers at a Sustainable Business Network event and were impressed by their – ‘create the kind of world you want to live in’ attitude. This is a conversation with Beka, Tim and Luke, the founders of Wise Boys Burgers.
Could you introduce yourselves and tell us how Wise Boys Burgers started?
Beka: I was working as a photojournalist in Malawi, making vegan burgers in my spare time, mostly because I missed Burgerfuel. Then one day I was talking to Tim and he was really excited about this idea he’d had in the middle of the night to make fast food more sustainable and healthy… and I wanted in on it too, even though I didn’t really know what that looked like. So then, Tim and his brother Luke started building the trailer. I came home and we just cracked into it really!
There’s been this ongoing conversation in the background for a while now around the climate change impacts of moving towards more plant-based diets. What has been the response from people when you explain the ‘why’ behind Wise Boys Burgers?
Beka: People are definitely wising up to the fact that we’ve got to make changes to the way we’re using our resources. Making sustainable choices, shifting away from single use plastics and that kind of thing – it doesn’t seem like such an extremist thing these days. We mostly just want to make it easier and more accessible to make sustainable food choices, and people so far have been pretty receptive to that.
Is Wise Boys Burgers your main focus or do you also have day jobs?
Beka: Wise Boys is my main focus at the moment, but I also freelance a bit as a photographer and designer.
Tim: Yep. Wise Boys is my jam 100%. I eat it. I breathe it.
Your sourcing philosophy, can you tell us your ethos behind it?
Beka: At the moment we’re just trying to get alongside people whose values align with ours. It’s pretty rad, there are a lot of legends out there who are excited about New Zealand’s food future and who are invested in helping make positive change happen. I feel like it’s an ongoing conversation, and something that we’ll always be working to develop as we change and grow.
Tim: I want to be making our burgers from 100% local ingredients. One day we’ll get there.
We mostly just want to make it easier and more accessible for people to make sustainable food choices
How do you feel social media is impacting social change communication?
Beka: I get psyched about social media, the sheer number of people that you can communicate with instantaneously is exciting. It’s been so crucial in our launch and initial growth. Social media gets a bad rep a lot of the time, but I think the other side of that is that when it’s used for good, you’ve got such a powerful tool. I’m all about encouraging and celebrating the positive side of it. I hope that Wise Boys can add to that.
It is estimated that avoidable food waste costs New Zealand $870 million annually, the numbers are staggering. As a business how do you guys reduce avoidable food waste?
Tim: It’s pretty tough for us. Being a food truck you gamble a lot on how much you might sell each week. Sometimes you nail it but sometimes we have too much left over at the end of the week. Any of our food waste that’s a no go is commercially composted by We Compost and sometimes we’ll take some buns to the Auckland City Mission when we’ve got a lot left over.
Right now there is a lot of interest in the area of sustainability, in particular reducing environmental impact. Where do you feel we can reduce environmental impact the most?
Tim: I think we’ve just got to do our best with the business that we’ve got. Making it easier for people to eat plant based meals is obviously the big thing for us. But we are also trying to be careful around our waste. Ideally we want to send as little as possible to landfill. We commercially compost all food scraps, we recycle all cans and bottles and glass and also we recycle soft plastics too.
Beyond burgers, what would be your-go to meal?
Beka: I’m pretty obsessed with toast. Sweet or savoury and it works for every meal, what more could you ask for.
Tim: I’m a sucker for any sort of delicious noodles with heaps of coriander involved.
Where do you guys see yourselves taking Wise Boy Burgers?
Beka: We’ve just gone through the Good Food Boost mentoring programme, put on by the Sustainable Business Network, which has given us a lot of ideas and scope for future endeavours! We’re still honing those ideas and focusing our direction, but in the very near future you can expect to see our plant-based, egg-free aioli for sale in some tasty little jars.
Tim: We’d love to have a permanent location somewhere in Auckland. I really want to set up a restaurant selling burgers and booch with the Organic Mechanic guys… That’s the dream. I’ve also thought about buying a bus and travelling the country selling burgers. Maybe one day…
It’s been great getting to know a bit more about you guys, the deal behind Wise Boys Burgers and your vision for the future. Inspiring stuff. So to conclude this conversation, what brands and or people inspire you?
Beka: I’m seriously inspired by some major players in the fashion scene at the moment – Kowtow, and Okewa Rainwear in particular. Their commitment to sustainability and quality is key to their brands, which I love. I also love George & Willy stuff! A lot. I’m really interested in the “buy this once” movement.
Tim: I’m a big fan of the Organic Mechanic crew and all that they do. I also love Elon Musk. The guy is a crazy genius and has somehow cracked two of the toughest industries and is bringing us the future. I’m going to own a Tesla in a few years… maybe.
You’ll find Wise Boys Burgers down at No.1 Queen Street most days serving up their plant based burgers to university students, tourists and the 9-5 crowd. To track the truck, follow them on Instagram.