LOCAL organic expert Ben Debs imagines a future where his drive-through fast-food chain would be a normal part of the culinary landscape in Byron. Together with partners Lucy Jenkinson and Barry Ferrier, he is seeking a fourth business partner to make Wakkas Organics become a reality. And Mr Debs is no stranger to conquering impossible odds.
RIGHT: WAKKAS ORGANICS Partners Ben Debs, Lucy Jenkinson and Barry Ferrier with Mr Ferrier's 1948 Massey Fergusson tractor, still going strong at his organic farm in Bangalow. Written by Christian Morrow
In 1990, after eight years of homelessness, he arrived in Nimbin, and within three years he had built a multi-million dollar organic food distribution business. He now owns Byron Bay Organics and plans to open a retail shop in Jonson St, Byron Bay, later this year.
So with a secure supply chain of fresh, healthy organic food in place, the Wakkas team is now setting out to create an organic fast-food franchise to rival any of the big US fast-food players. "Australians are becoming more and more conscious of healthy food and the environment, so the time is right for this kind of restaurant," he said.
"Our dream is to have drive-through that makes it fast and convenient to enjoy fresh, nutritious organic food. "Not fancy food either, but real satisfying burgers, organic fries, salads and coffee."
After establishing their first outlet in Byron Bay they hope to take on the world with their distinctive Wakkas logo, featuring a koala, popping up on skylines in the US and UK. "When there is a koala hanging off our big W in New York City or London, I want Byron Bay to have a little part of that," he said.
Mr Debs is passionate about organic food and believes the time has come for it to be part of the mainstream and not a specialised niche market food. "Organic food is a lifestyle and attitude, a way of life and it's how we treat each other," he said. "We already have some substantial backers but are just looking for someone more local who has the right expertise to help us make this happen."