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The Questions Every Food Founder Should Ask and How To Stand Out | Adam Wills - EP 2

Adam Wills is the founder of Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Crosstown Doughnuts. He moved over from NZ in 1996 and in 2000 launched GBK which he sold in 2005. In 2010 he opened up Kopapa restaurant headed by Peter Gordon and then In 2014 he founded artisan doughnut concept Crosstown Doughnuts.

Adam is an exceptional entrepreneur with continued track record of success. We chat about his journey and how he almost blew up his first restaurant! We discuss how he identifies opportunities and what questions every aspiring food founder should be asking themselves.

This was a dream interview to chat with Adam.

"You got to do it for as much as the memories as the money"

Adam Wills

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My favourite quotes from the interview*

*some have been paraphrased or shortened

Londons Food Scene in 1998:

"People always used to say how bad in the UK was"
"You had either very high end or just a massive drop down to the lower end of kebabs and curry houses"

Founding Gourmet Burger Kitchen:

"I felt like there was a gap between the higher end and the lower end and that how Gourmet Burger Kitchen came"
"I was looking back at the New Zealand demographic were there were a lot more food options - there are people over here with money but you either sit down with a menu or a waiter or eat out a newspaper"
"It all comes down to really simple quality base ingredients"
"We just had to focus on making a really great cheese burger and if we could achieve that 80%-85% of the time customers were happy"

How he got GBK off the ground:

"We didn't even know you needed a licensed venue over here for a restaurant"
"We just made heaps of mistakes"
"We raised £250k to get started and we put £50k in each of that"
"The day before we opened a lady knocked on the door and told us it would never work in this neighbourhood"
"If you take everything personally you would get worried"
"It was no immediate success"
"When you keep things simple and expectations low vs now when people want an immediate success and recognition"
"We thought we would do the demolition ourselves to save some money and thought we had done a great job, the next day we came back and there was hazard tape everywhere. We had ruptured a gas line and the building had to be evacuated"
"You got to do it for as much as the memories as the money"
"You got to enjoy the journey

On Selling:

"It was becoming clear it was growing and looking like maybe something bigger then I wanted to run"

On Meeting JP and Setting Up CrossTown

"To date I have never seen anything as complete as what he had put together"
"He put together a hard bound copy, there was so much research, there was a bag with coffee beans in it"
"As you get older and get surrounded by people of a similar age, people loose enthusiasm, people don't want to take as many risks, you have more responsibilities and when you meet someone young with as much interest in getting involved it was a really attractive trait"
"He turned up and send I've got some money and I want to invest - so many people say will you give me all your knowledge and experience, take all the risk and I'll retain 90% of the business"
"What is going to differentiate you from other coffee shops"
"I'm not scared to look at things and ask how can I make this better"

On Co-founders and Teams:

"There is no point having 3 food guys and you need a team of people you enjoy being around"
"You need to be able to stomach people on the good days and the bad days"

Advice For Future Food Founders:

"It is important to stop and think about what you want your business to look like in five years"
"It is great to start off with a food truck but how are you going to move that on to something you can live with long term"
"You have to be open to constructive criticism"
"Be prepared to listen to people tell you why it won't work"
"Go check your idea, if you think it will work - test it"
"Have a go at something when you're younger, there is a high chance you might stuff it up and you have to get comfortable knowing you did something wrong"
"Even those great business guys get it wrong but when you read about them 20 years ago you thought everything they touched turned to gold"
"Most people aren't looking for you to prove something to them, its about proving something to yourself"
"Don't let the weight of expectation of people around you force you to make decisions. If you take a step back and think you'll probably come to another decision"
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