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Should I Start a Food Business? Pt 2 - Start with the end in mind.

So you have weighed up if you should start a food business (I recommend if you haven't going back and reading it here) so lets get in to next steps. Hopefully the last step might have given you an idea on what might be a direction to go in. So at this point I would be asking myself.

  • What Cuisine

  • What Food

  • What Model

Now that seems pretty simple but each choice will change how you approach the company. So one way to make this process easier is start with another questions:

I ask myself: What do you want your future to look like?

this is really broad so let's narrow it down.

  1. What do you want this food business to be known for? Experience? Quality? Relaxed?

  2. How much income do you want this business to make? £100k? £2m? £50m?

  3. How many people do you want to be responsible for? 1, you? 10? 500?

  4. How long do you want to stay in this business for? 3 years? 10 years? Forever?

  5. How much money do you want to invest in this business? £1000? £20,000? £1,000,000?

  6. How involved do you want to be in this business? Every part? Just cooking? Nothing?

These are all the questions I wish I had asked myself, it was only after getting feeling lost and reaching out to people they gave me the right advice. It is too easy to get carried away with an idea and not actually stop, think and plan for the future. I feared waking up in 5 years and realising I had left a job I didn't like just to create a nightmare company for myself. I desperately didn't want to do that and this stage helped protect me against it.

This is principle number 2, these principles will help guide you when setting up your food business and while you operate it.

Principle number 2: Start with the end in mind

So lets break down each step:

What is the business known for?

This means what kind of company do you want to create. When a food business opens up they need to have a guiding principal, their north star, that keeps them going in the right direction. A chef deciding to open up a restaurant with a goal of gaining a Michelin Star isn't going to be focused on relaxed and Affordable. No, their north star will be Quality and Experience. The same applies for you and the business you are going to start. For Crafty Pies it was challenge traditional. I hated how pies had been made to viewed so I wanted to flip tradition on its head and create something exciting. That guides me for every decision. If someone asks if they can have a soggy chicken and mushroom pie with mash potato and liqueur I don't have to think, no matter how much they want to pay, I say no. However I can offer you a Whisky Smoked BBQ Pulled Chicken Pie with Grilled onion and Mustard Mash with Brandy Spiked Gravy. There are of course other core elements guiding Crafty Pies such as quality and service etc BUT they come second after the north star, We challenge convention and give a Crafty twist. Think about what your north star is.

This leads me to my next principle

Principle 3: Have a north star and follow it closely or risk getting lost

How much do you want the business to make?

Well of course when you start dreaming the only answer is millions right? This is the part where math guides me.

My business we sell from £8 upward to £25 for each person. lets give an average of £10 to make this math example a lot easier. NOTE: food businesses are very seasonal so this is purely for a numerical example - the business would not operate like this every week.

For me to sell £100,000 worth of pies I need to sell 10,000 pies a year. That is 192 pies every week. 770 pies a month. That seems quite feasible to do operating a street food market stand and going to festivals if you have a great product.

Now £500,000, that is 50,000 pies a year, 962 pies a week, 137 pies every day, 7 days a week. This begins to look a bit more like a professional set up either with multiple stands running simultaneously which means multiple staff or a restaurant to achieve this revenue.

Now at £2m, 200,000 pies a year, 3,846 a week, 550 pies a day. This is the start of the big leagues, that is restaurant, retail level.

This is just a rough example and numbers used are based on Crafty Pies business model. However it all depends on what kind of business you are running. There are some restaurants that turnover £10m+ in a single restaurant every year. This is just to give you an example to understand to reach a certain revenue you will need to understand at what price you are going to sell at and how much you need to sell. That will help guide you to what physically you'll need in place to achieve it.

How many people do you want to be responsible for?

The answer to the above question will help guide this. I found the biggest challenge in growing a business is having employees, something I thought would have been the easiest. I had no experience with it before so when the time came I had a shock awakening to the challenge! The bigger the goal the more people you will be responsible for. Once you have employees too it is your duty every month to make sure they get paid on time so you are no longer worrying about just yourself and things can become very stressful. Not only that you have to try keep them at your company too. Being conscious of this responsibility and understanding the challenge is very important and if it feels you with dread then you either need someone else to do it or scale back the size of your ambition.

How long do you want to stay in the business for?

I asked myself at the start do I want to be in Crafty Pies for the rest of my life. The answer was no. I loved pies and I wanted to learn about business but I knew I wanted to do other things so Crafty Pies would be my first step. If I wasn't going to be doing it forever then I needed to think of a plan to either sell or create a way I'm not running it every day. This was for me personally, some people just love that one thing and want to do it forever, then all you need to do is focus on growing or maintaining the business. If the goal is to sell then you need to make sure the company is growing continuously until it becomes attractive enough to someone to want to buy. Another option is to grow the company, invest in the right people and become less involved by delegating jobs to others. Whatever your decision is, once you've decided you better have a plan to execute it.

How much money do you want to/can you invest in the business?

When I set up Crafty Pies I had less then £8,000 to my name so it made my decision really easy, I could only invest under £8,000. I ended up maxing all my overdrafts and credit cards and did £10,000. My goal was to open a restaurant when I started, which you need at least £200,000+ which I didn't have and no one lining up to give it to me. So I had to start from a market stall. How much money you have/are willing to invest will influence what you can and can't do at the start. If the goal is a fine dining Michelin Star restaurant well you might need closer to £1m to do and if your goal is to open a street food stall you could do it for <£1000. Money is a big factor in where you start however it is not a limiting factor to what you can achieve.

How involved in the business do you want to be?

I knew when I set up Crafty Pies I had to do everything because I couldn't afford anyone else to do anything. As I have grown I now have the luxury to do less of things I don't enjoy. At the start you need to ask yourself how involved in the running and operating of the business do you want to be. Some people may decide they never want to be involved in the cooking and production side which is fine but someone has to do it which cost money. Alternatively you have some highly skilled people such as chefs who decide to open up a food business and want nothing to do with anything else apart from the kitchen. If you don't want to do something, the job still needs doing, so you have to get give those jobs to other people, this could be a partnership or it could be employees.

So for me when I went through this I reached my conclusion.

Crafty Pies will be known for challenging convention. The goal is a restaurant but I only have £8,000 pounds so I am going to have to start at street food and build my way up to a restaurant. I want to grow to at least £2m which means 550 pies a day and 10+ staff. I will have to do everything from the beginning myself and I do not want to get a partner. I plan that after 5-7 years I will be in a position to be less involved with every day running of Crafty Pies or sell.

Knowing this makes choosing the structure and set up of the company much easier because it's guided by how I want my future to look. It's important to set up this way, I knew I was going to be the only one driving this business forward so I had to have a lot of steam in the engine or I would have given up. Nothing will give you more determination than creating your ideal future.

So returning to the start;

  • What Cuisine

  • What Food

  • What Model

The Cuisine: I always knew I wanted to do pies so I knew my cuisine would be Pies. Ask yourself what can you bring to the market that is different, exciting or better than what is currently out there.

The Food: I couldn't serve restaurant food on a plate because I would be staring in street food so I adapted it to pies in a box with smashed garlic and rosemary potatoes (no mash) and serve with selection of sauces such a jalapeño ketchup. Your food has to fit the narrative it in, be playful but practical.

The model: Due to my finances it had to be street food which meant a price point of £6-£9. The model would be a mobile street food business that popped up in locations and sold to the public that I would have to pay rent to be at. I would operate with just myself and maybe 1 part time helper. I would build up and grow from street food to a restaurant model. Where are you now - where are you getting to.

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