Gyros, wastelands & giant paella pans: Newschool Greek food with That Ziki

Written by Josh Ebsworth, Fri 28 July 2023

That Ziki was founded just over a year ago in their native Manchester by brothers Jack & Luke Newton. Sick of the corporate life, they quit their jobs and bought a food truck, diving straight into the deep end. They’re currently Togather’s number 1 booked new partner, so we reached out to them to talk about their meteoric rise up the Manchester food scene. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started

My name's Jack. I run the company That Ziki with my brother Luke. We started it in 2022 as we were sort of sick of our nine to five jobs. I worked in PR and marketing for big agencies in Manchester and Brighton. Luke worked as an IT consultant. So we thought, you know, we want to work for ourselves, we wanna start our own business. Genuinely one of the quickest ways to start making money from day one, is in catering. And I've always loved food. I'm a foodie home cook sort of guy. Luke's into his food as well. 

We tried to sort of get into some market hall concepts around where we live, but no one would have us because we didn't have any trading history and we were kind of just, well winging it. So we thought: let's just buy a food truck. So we bought a food truck from some place near Skegness. By the way I wouldn't recommend going to Skegness. 

We drove it back and within two days, we’d set up shop in a little bit of literal wasteland near my house. It was January and it was FREEZING and pitch black. I thought every night we were gonna get robbed. It's not a rough area or anything, but like if, if I was gonna rob someone, I'd definitely rob that food truck because it was literally pitch black, and the queues were getting bigger and bigger so people knew that we would obviously be making money… We didn't get robbed, thankfully. 

How did you gain a following from just setting up a truck in a wasteland? If I set something up on Lea Bridge road, nobody is showing up. 

I mean I think there's definitely a bit of luck in there. I, and I don't really like to brag about it, but I used to work in advertising, you know what I mean? So I knew how to really push through social media. 

Social media's a bit of a weird one isn't it? I think it's great, but also it's really bad at the same time. You just endlessly consume content. But you can really easily go onto Instagram or TikTok and can see what's worked for other people and replicate it.

One thing that did help is there's a quite a large Instagram account up here called Manchester Finest. They came down to try the food and then it just boomed. But you know, I suppose sometimes we don't give ourselves enough credit. It took hours and hours to marinate all the meat ourselves. We made everything ourselves in the van, all the sauces, everything. The only thing that was frozen was the chips.


What's the Manc food scene like now?

It's going off big time. So many London businesses are coming up, it's mad. Manchester got its first Michelin Star as well. They didn't have one for years, but they got it like two years ago. So that's sort of started a trend. It's mad how big it's getting. It's a nightmare for people like me who live just outside because the traffic is just horrendous though. 

How did you get into Greek cooking? Is it a family thing or is it just something you took an interest in?

No, it's not, it's not a family thing at all. My sister's called Eleni, which is a Greek name, but obviously that's just pure coincidence. I don't think Greek food has been very well represented up here. There’s the odd family run Greek takeaway which is really nice. But we wanted to put our own twist on it. We don't do it as super traditional as them, and we make tzatziki the traditional way, but we have like extra sauces that aren't Greek, you know, and we have specials, like Turkey and Greek sausage and stuff like that. 

Has food always been a big part of your life? What's some of your favourite early food memories?

My dad owned a few cafes in Knutsford, which is a suburb in Cheshire on the outskirts of Manchester. I remember going to help him there sometimes and I just thought it was really cool because I was quite young really. The earliest memories are working with my dad and then once I sort of grew up a bit, I remember my mum cooked everything from scratch at home, baking and all sorts of stuff. 

Did your dad ever dissuade you from joining the catering trade? 

All the time. Oh my, he's still doing it now! The washing up, the constant cooking and the prep personally gets to me. Anytime when it gets a bit tough, my dad says ‘oh, you're not cut out for this you can't do it’, which is why we have amazing employees who we’d be lost without who are much better at the cooking aspect. 

What's some of your best or funniest memories from starting the business?

Well it wasn’t funny then, but it's funny to laugh at now. Here’s one… I woke up at 6 AM to drive our truck to the shop and loaded it up because we had a massive festival that we were going to.  It's a really busy street, and the van breaks down. 

So I'm like, fuck. There's tons of buses stuck there and I'm stuck. So then we have to get loads of people to push it, but obviously it's a four tonne truck. So, we’ve got loads of random strangers pushing this truck but it's quite old and the power steering isn't on and I’m trying to turn it and I'm like, oh my God, I'm gonna crash into someone's house. 

And another one, Luke won't mind me telling you this, but let's talk about how amateur we were at the start. On our literal first day, we got the food truck and finally got our street trader licence from the council and we drove the truck from my house to my parents' house in Warrington. We had our closest friends and family there, as we decided to give the truck a test run before opening to the public the next day. The problem was we hadn't even cooked on the truck before as everything was brand new.

As we got started, Luke was chopping up ingredients and we had brand new knives which were super sharp. Unfortunately, in his enthusiasm he managed to chop off a bit of his finger and it fell into the dish we were preparing. Panic ensued, blood was everywhere, and we thought, 'maybe we shouldn't have done this.' It was quite funny for me though. I couldn't help but laugh, even though the situation was pretty chaotic. We decided not to serve the finger salad 

Have there been any  moments that you've been proud of what you've achieved? 

My mum sends me these really nice messages asking how I'm doing and congratulating me on all the events we've done this week. Last week alone we made a thousand gyros from just events, not counting our regular sales in Leeds and Charlton, which is pretty amazing.

It's great to receive positive feedback, but I have a bit of a gift and a curse. I tend to quickly move on to the next thing. We've successfully opened and run these two places, with a fantastic team and great reviews from customers. But even after thinking about it for just ten seconds, I'm already like, 'Alright, let's do it again!'"

What’s your experience on Togather been like? 

"It's been pretty amazing. The first booking we did was a 400-person event about a week ago. We had never done 400 gyros before so it was a bit nerve-wracking, but I thought this sounds like a great opportunity. So I called up Luke and said, 'Don't freak out, but we might have won a contract for 400 Gyros.'

Luke understandably freaked out, but I was confident that we could handle it. And you know what? It turned out to be fine. We always manage to pull through. We rented this massive paella pan, it was bigger than a Fiat Punto. We got through so many people really quickly, and they were absolutely buzzing. They even sent me a really nice message, and I believe they left a glowing review too. It's just fantastic to hear such positive feedback.We take a lot of care when it comes to events and always go above and beyond. And that includes renting a pan the size of an aeroplane’s nose cone. 

You can find That Ziki in Chorlton & Leeds at their permanent sites or you can book their amazing gyros through Togather