ZIKI is changing the ingredient game and taking Austin by storm.

By Brena Ullrich, Photos by Anthony D’Apolito

As any local knows, Austin is a home for the foodies. The city’s restaurant scene is bustling with business and chock-full of some of the hottest culinary places in Texas. In a city filled with creative entrepreneurs with a passion for cuisine, it seems as though there’s a cafe, restaurant or food truck around every corner. It can be hard to imagine how any new food company could thrive, or survive for that matter, in a food industry as saturated as Austin’s. What does it take to make it in this great city?

Meet ZIKI, the new food and beverage startup with the plans, and the backers, for taking over Austin’s restaurant industry. They’re serving up a unique blend of fast-casual Greek and Mexican food and will soon be opening their third modular kitchen in Austin. The vibrant flavors aren’t the only twist the brand offers, though. Their values are what truly set them apart. ZIKI’s founder, Nicholas Nanakos, began the company with a back-to-the-basics mindset in regard to ingredients. They are completely seed oil-, canola oil-, vegetable oil- and soy-free. They’ve got a multi-decade vision, with some powerful women in leadership to make it all happen.

ZIKI Knows Food

Kat Vasylyshyn

ZIKI knows food, and they see the significance ingredients have on the integrity of food. They pride themselves on being ingredient conscious, both with respect to health and sustainability. “ZIKI believes that the greatest way to protect and advance our health as humans resides within our food system,” says Dia Magoulis, ZIKI’s social media and events coordinator. “The world needs this now more than ever, and Austin is the perfect place for us to have planted the roots and build the foundation necessary to take this mission to the moon and back.”

Every ingredient is intentional, and ZIKI gives extra TLC when it comes to finding these products. Sourcing Texas-grown produce that is regeneratively grown is a priority to support the environment, the community and the health of their customers. ZIKI chooses products like animal-based ghee instead of vegetable ghee, even though this is more than twice as expensive. “We’d rather take the money that we would spend on a brick-and-mortar and invest it into the ingredients,” says Kat Vasylyshyn, ZIKI’s head of marketing. They are willing to make accommodations to stay true to their core values.

Women Making It Happen

As the first woman to join, Vasylyshyn spoke to the shift in dynamics she has witnessed since bringing more women, like Magoulis, onto the executive team. Business is traditionally seen as a masculine field, but with ZIKI that is not the case. Bringing a feminine touch to the way they lead has been especially beneficial to the company. “We’re all doing so much to connect with people on a deeper level,” says Vasylyshyn. Taking time to foster good relationships in the community and letting creativity naturally flow seems to be just what ZIKI needed. Advocating for women in the food industry as well as in leadership positions has been an important objective of the company.

Dia Magoulis

Magoulis began her journey with ZIKI as kitchen staff and quickly moved up to corporate. Her talent was swiftly seen, and she was able to take on a role that suited her best. “It was energetic alignment that we are all here,” she describes.

Many of the executive staff have had some experience in the service industry and understand what their partners need to succeed. “We like to make sure that we are taking care of our chefs and kitchen staff as much as we are taking care of the customer that eats our food,” says Vasylyshyn. Allowing chefs and kitchen staff to engage their creative sides and propose recipes is just one of the ways ZIKI supports them. ZIKI also provides state-of-the-art kitchens with everything a chef needs and will be introducing a benefits package to supplement Austin’s rising cost of living.

ZIKI: A Food Company to Believe In

The overall mission of the company has pushed others to believe in them as well. ZIKI recently closed their seed round led by Gigafund, one of Elon Musk’s core backers, after raising an impressive $6.7 million. These are the same investors that put over $1 billion into SpaceX and several other of Musk’s companies. There is a larger plan at play here. ZIKI is expected to open two more locations by the end of 2022 and five more by the end of 2023. What may appear on the surface as just a food truck is really a long-term conquest with complex business operations.

ZIKI knows it’s still early in the game for them, but they have set themselves up for success and will continue pushing forth their vision. “ZIKI as a company is growth minded, prioritizes health and empowers team members to be the best versions of themselves—completely unleashing their fullest potential,” Magoulis sums up. 



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