The rationale for raw food is that cooking processes destroy a host of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, B1, and E, as well as beta-carotene and digestive enzymes, leading enthusiasts such as Madonna, Demi Moore and Jim Carrey to claim raw is healthier. And inspired by the growing popularity of the 'movement' in the US, Seligman and Craig have created a ready-to-go foodservice and café concept that sells uncooked vegetable and fruit dishes to discerning foodies.
Raw's target isn't just health fanatics, however. Its consumer is young and nutritionally aware, says Craig, some of whom may have a hangover and are guiltily seeking to make it up to their bodies.
Currently operating out of the 4th Floor Food Garden Cafe and ground floor Food Hall of Selfridges' London store, the pair plan to open the first standalone cafe store in Colonnade Walk, in Victoria Station, this January. Another will open in Bishopsgate in March, with a further three units, also in London, by the end of 2009. "I absolutely see it on every high street," says Craig. And the pair are so confident the concept has potential in the UK they have ploughed £1m of their own money into it.
There are certainly reasons for optimism. As well as the US , the opening of raw food restaurant Saf in London in April this year provides further evidence Brits, too, have an appetite for this kind of offer.
Current dishes include Pulse Heaven; Mango & Snow Pea; and Sunrise Kick grated sweet potato and pumpkin. Wraps, which retail between £4.25 and £4.95, come in four varieties including Vitality, "loaded with Caribbean Sunrise salad and sprouted chickpeas". Veg also come in flan form, such as pumpkin flan; and there are puds such as mango & banana cake. But the offer won't be exclusively vegetarian. Sushi will be added along with (cooked) organic turkey. "The mix will be 88% raw," says Craig.
As a business proposition, Raw is based largely on gut instinct. Its founders carried out no formal market research before embarking on their mission. Sales in Selfridges are "buoyant and on the increase". They are also "even Stevens" between the Food Hall and the Cafe, although the Food Hall is expected to turn a greater profit in the long term.
But when it comes to experience, there's no doubting Craig and Seligman's experience. Craig was a regional director at Pizza Express, with responsibility for 114 restaurants in England. Seligman founded the Communicator marketing agency .
By funding the project themselves, the pair are less susceptible, they claim, to the vagaries of market forces . "We're in a comfortable enough position," says Craig, who anticipates sales of £2.2m for year one. Indeed, the downturn could even play to Raw's advantage, he says, with cheaper rents and a greater variety of retail units.