When we first had an idea of opening a vegan restaurant chain, we right away started to think how to name it. We wanted our name to mainly reflect 3 things:
- Firstly, we wanted it to be about whole food, and about forgotten plant-based culinary traditions. What do I mean by that? Most of the vegan places today either 1) go into direction of seitan or heavily processed meat substitutes or 2) into Asian influences (tofu, tempeh, etc.). Our story is a bit different. If we think about it, actually before the industrialization of agriculture in the 20th century most of the staple dishes all over the world were either fully plant-based, or at least vegetarian. Meat was a luxury and was eaten on rare occasions. For example, a Russian peasant in 19th century ate meat only during the big church holidays: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and Trinity. The rest of the time, she ate the variety of vegetable-based dishes (turnips, swede, potatoes, beetroots, etc.). With our menu, we wanted to fall back on this strong and old plant-based food tradition and at least partially resurrect it.
- Secondly, we wanted our brand to be a bit Russian. We felt that having a bit of “Russianness” can be a positive thing in a consumer brand, since there is always so much discussion about Russia in the news and consumers have a strong awareness of the geography 😃
- Thirdly, we wanted our brand to be memorable and having a distinctive character, so that we can use it in the future advertisement and can spin new stories around it.
So, we decided to call ourselves “Tolstoy”, after the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. Why? Because in the second half of his life Leo Tolstoy became vegetarian/vegan and wrote a lot about the issue. It’s a nice story to build the vegan brand on. He was one of the first people in the Western world, who made a conscious choice to avoid eating animals. He also decided to only eat “peasants’ food”, which consisted of simple plant-based dishes. Moreover, he had a very distinctive appearance who most people today recognize. So, the great writer can be a great brand ambassador. McDonalds has Ronald McDonald, KFC has the colonel, Burger King has the king, and we have Tolstoy 😃 More than a mere character, more than a mere mascot – but a whole school of thought.