Building a Food Delivery Business: An Interview With GymFood One Year On
FoodStars offers an array of different opportunities to various types of food business. One of its offerings is a dark kitchen for starting or building a food delivery business.
One year on from our first interview with them, in this article we talk with one of our members, Gym Food’s founder, George Streatfield. We talk about how his business has continued to progress, why he believes that food delivery is the way forward, and how he is looking to grow.
George Streatfield, Managing Director and Founder of Gym Food
Q: What Do You Think Is The Key To Success In The Food Delivery Market?
In this business you need to have an operation that is completely geared towards ratings – that is both your own in-house ones – from timings of food prep, handling and delivery, to customer feedback on food quality. Delivery food businesses are different to restaurants, you are not selling an experience, but a service.
Getting good ratings consistently on over 300 orders a day is hard work. We follow up on any negative feedback as soon as it comes in, but the key really is to be good at what you do. Our current 4.7* rating is testament to us, our high quality chefs and the slick operation of our team.
I believe that one of the biggest contributors to failure rates is the underestimation of the amount of money needed to run a professional set up. With overheads and commissions, aiming for a turnover of £20 – 30k sales a month is not sufficient. It needs to be triple this. We wish we had understood our numbers better and the demands of turn over to keep the roof over our heads when we first set out.
3. Be Niche.
You might be cooking the best chinese food out there, but the market it flooded with chinese restaurants and getting your name known without a brand ambassador or serious amounts of marketing power, will be near impossible.
We believe that part of our success is being in a relatively small area of the market – how many other companies can you think of that genuinely deliver healthy food? We have got lucky with our niche, but also, having been a fitness fanatic and unable to find what we now deliver, I knew there was a gap in the market.
Q. Has Your Business Changed From What You Thought It Was Going To Become?
When we started out we were simply trying to survive. I didn’t know about food, it was fitness that I was into and knew that I had wanted to have a calorie specific, healthy fast food option – and if I did, then others would too. I worked 7 days a week for 18 months to meet this first step, and the goal at that time was simply to keep our heads above water.
It’s only in the last 8 months I have been able to implement a fantastic management team to help me at the top level of running the business so that I have more time to focus on the direction of the business and where we want to take it.
Q. Given Your Success, Would You Not Look To Grow Into A Restaurant? Or Perhaps A Supermarket? Or Is Food Delivery The Only Way Forward?
One Step At A Time
Deciding how to grow a food delivery business is about market research as well as following intuition. For example, Camden’s biggest search term on Deliveroo is for a burger. So, why wouldn’t we look to offer Camden the best, healthiest burger there is to satisfy its demand? Deliveroo wants to feed people three times a day but the biggest issues for consumers is cost and health. If we can overcome one of those issues, i.e., make take away options healthy, we can make a real impact on the market by delivering what people want, and more importantly, need.
In a dark kitchen you are very vulnerable, so we are keen to build on our brand in the first instance. One of our biggest guides to our success is our ability to retain our customers and we don’t want to compromise this loyalty by attempting to grow too fast at the detriment of quality. Once we feel confident with our brand positioning, we will look to spread ourselves more widely in terms of where our produce is available and the variety of products that we create. Plus you need money! We won’t be rolling out anything new without the right amount of financial backing to ensure its success.
On Growing Into A Restaurant
I had initially thought that it would be simple, start a food business and grow it through numerous dark kitchens and take over London. I’ve since realised that this isn’t the route to growth and simply wouldn’t be sustainable.
On the other hand, creating a restaurant would also be detrimental. Restaurants are currently struggling to fill the seats front of house, and if they opt to take up delivery, their kitchens are too small to service demand appropriately. What we want to do is combine the two by taking the dark kitchen model and putting it on the highstreet – so creating a delivery focused restaurant.
Branching Out Into Supermarkets
In terms of supermarkets, yes, once we are satisfied with where we have got to on the delivery side of things, we will definitely consider moving into retail. We believe that our meals are tastier, more convenient and less expensive than some of the current brands and are currently working on the concept of adding a ready meal for tomorrow’s lunch with your evening delivery.
Q. What Do You Love Most About The Food Industry?
I’m not sure what I most love, but what I have been pleasantly surprised by is how small the industry is in London. Having grown up here knowing a lot of the chains as a consumer it has been great to meet the inspirational people behind them.
Q. What Has Been Your Worst Experience In The Food Industry?
I haven’t run another business in another sector, so I don’t know how this is comparatively, but the seasonality of demand is tough to work with. Even when it comes to mid week and weekends, amending your stock and staff according to people’s whims that cannot always be predicted is hard.
Q. Have You Got A Mentor?
No, I don’t have a mentor so to speak but there have been a couple of people whose opinions and guidance have been very important to me. Firstly John Harrison from Old Court Investments and secondly Josh Madison from Zing Zing. Sharing in how we can learn from our mistakes has been a valuable experience.
Q. If You Were To Give One Piece Of Advice To A Food Delivery Startup, What Would It Be?
You Need to Be Tough!
I never realised the mental strain of a startup and what an emotional and stressful journey this would be. Without family or a safety network I have put everything on the line to build what I have at high risk. Employing people, having their livelihoods on your hands is also a big responsibility as well as meeting the expectations of investors – it is a lot of pressure and shouldn’t be entered into lightly! The fear of failure, or letting people down also shouldn’t be underestimated.
There is a difference between working hard and working smart and it is difficult to do if you don’t start out with the right team and the right amount of money. You need the funding in place to build a fantastic team. Our head chef and operations manager are second to none and their knowledge and foresight has been key to the company’s success. Have a USP, be the very best and have the money to achieve this.
Q. And Just For Fun…what Is Your Favourite Food?
I used to live in Thailand and I love their food. (And if you’re looking for a great Gym Food option, the sweet chilli salmon is damn fine – nothing is ever frozen and all our food is made fresh on the day).
Gym Food is now 2.5 years old and an inspiration for improving our diets and providing a healthy take away that the public are in need of. They started out in and continue to use a FoodStars dark kitchen, if you too have a niche idea for a food delivery business, then starting with FoodStars could be the way forward.