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‘It’s scary’: Perth salad bar owner Ethan on surviving a difficult first year

Perth's Origin salad bar on South Street has built a loyal following, despite navigating home working, restricted parking and a wave of business closures.

Ethan March outside the red front of Origin salad bar on South Street.
Owner of Origin salad bar Ethan March. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

As Origin salad bar passes its first year in Perth city centre, owner Ethan March hopes his business will last to see another anniversary.

Opening a salad bar had long been on Ethan’s mind before Origin opened its doors on South Street last August.

He felt the Fair City lacked somewhere to go for fresh food and lighter meals, so he took matters into his own hands.

Despite having worked in the food industry before as a waiter and in kitchens, he met unexpected challenges in his first “roller coaster” year.

“I’ve managed to survive the first year, but it was challenging,” Ethan admits.

Three full salad boxes from Origin.
The Origin salad bar menu has 35 different salads. Image: Ethan March

“Obviously there were good days, a little worse days, every day is different. Overall, the food industry is unpredictable.

“When I was opening, I knew the winter was going to be a struggle. To start with, it was pretty strong, so was the springtime. This summer has been a slow couple of months.”

One year of Origin salad bar

Origin Salad Bar’s menu boasts 35 different salads ranging from £2.50 to £11. As Ethan makes each bowl fresh, he can whip up custom mixes as well.

The menu also features paninis, sandwiches, baked potatoes, smoothies and fresh juices. Origin is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and also offers deliveries.

A salad counter with different containers of chopped up ingredients.
From the salad counter, Ethan can make up any salad fresh and on request. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

The biggest difficulty Ethan has encountered with not knowing what each day brings is knowing how much fresh food to stock.

Some days lots of people want Caesar salads, the next it’s potato salads. While he has regulars that will always order the same, it’s difficult to know how many customers will come through the doors.

Ethan says: “I have some people that work locally, whenever they come for lunch they’ll say they work in the city centre only two days a week because they’re still working from home.

“I’ve discussed with other businesses that this is not very helpful.

“There is a lot less traffic than it was prior to Covid and this is a big challenge to our businesses.”

Being in city centre is ‘scary’

Perth city centre has gone through huge changes in the past few years with many shops and hospitality venues closing.

Over summer, five bars and restaurants closed within the span of a month. Seeing the empty units in the Fair City has an effect on Ethan.

“It’s pretty scary, when you looked at well established businesses a couple of years ago there were queues down the pavements,” he says.

“When you see those names in the newspaper or social media announcing that they are going to shut, it’s scary.

Ethan March sitting inside Origin salad bar holding a menu
Ethan’s biggest hope is that Origin salad bar survives the winter. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

“It’s sad that we’re losing them, a lot of effort and thought went into bringing the business idea into reality.

“I think to myself, what is the next winter ahead of me going to be like?”

The Origin salad bar owner fondly remembers the independent craft shops from years gone by and how lively he found the city centre.

Perthshire Local entrepreneur Iain Fenwick believes the 15-minute free parking in the centre discourages people from spending time there.

As dwell times in the city centre drop, people spend less money in local businesses.

Place for Origin salad bar in Perth

Ethan has also noticed some customers will order through the Origin salad bar website and use the 15-minutes of free parking to pick it up.

Though with less people wandering the streets of Perth, he often hears from people popping in that they have never heard of his salad bar before.

The outside of 55 South Street, the red front of Origin salad bar.
Ethan often hears that pedestrians have never walked past Origin despite the salad bar just passing its first birthday. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Thankfully, new customers usually follow that up with an appreciation for a healthy takeaway option in the city.

Ethan says: “A large amount of people say they’ve always thought such a place is so much needed in Perth.

“I didn’t know if maybe this place is too small for a salad bar, but there are definitely people who appreciate it.”