With the first tranche of our investors’ funding having only just landed, and a launch date of March 2013, there is still a lot to do to fine tune the operation. This week we’ve just finished off the process of finding a branding agency to mastermind our image; we’ve been on the new premises with builders and shop fitters to get quotes; we’ve been seeing packaging producers to refine the design of our burger box; we’ve met a scooter supplier to choose what bikes we want our delivery men on; we’ve even met a pickles specialist to help us choose the best toppings for our burgers. And that’s all in the one week.
The idea came after I sold off some of my previous start-up, Recruitment Squared, because I wasn’t enjoying the office environment. I wanted to do something more fun. Originally the idea was to start an American-style healthy fast-food bar in the City of London, but I went off of this in favour of the burger delivery concept. That was when I met my now business partner Peter Sharman and we began working through all the challenges. One of the main hurdles has been packaging: maintaining the quality and the ‘structure’ of a prepared burger whilst having to carry it in a box on a scooter is tough. We’ve even got a patent on our box design because of the way it protects the burger from flipping or getting soggy, but still manages to keep it hot.
We started by meeting with lots of industry insiders – owner/operators of fast food businesses. Then we spent three months writing a business plan with which to approach investors. We needed £250,000, and we’ve just secured this amount from some pizza delivery moguls. There are still a few obstacles to get past: the brand needs to be improved and consolidated – we may even change the name of the company before the launch. There’s more recipe development to be done, and we’re going to visit the States on a New York, Los Angeles and Florida tour, trying out American diners and burger joints to see if there’s anything we can learn.
The best thing about the job so far is that there is such a wide variety of things we have to do. We’ll be going through financial issues one day, tasting pickles the next day, and talking to builders about refurb options the day after that. But, easily the hardest thing about the process so far has been finding the best meat recipe in the UK. We’ve spent about seven months eating burgers four or five times a week, made from meats from all different corners of the globe. Before this, we had only amateur, rudimentary knowledge about how a good burger should taste.
So the first store opens in March, and we’re both going to be in the kitchen, flipping burgers and doing deliveries. Over the course of that year, if things go to plan, we’ll be hoping quickly to expand and open more sites: perhaps as many as three will be open by the end of the first year.
The experience of pitching to investors was fun and luckily it went off without incident. We didn’t meet anyone who seemed completely disinterested in our idea. Incidentally, our first pitch and burger tasting was to Pret A Manger founder Julian Metcalfe. We prepared some burgers and went over to his Knightsbridge house on a scooter, but hit an enormous pothole in the road on the way. This was the first time we had tested the packaging and we were extremely worried the burger would be ruined by the time we got there. When we did arrive, Metcalfe said he would make it harder by telling us not to open the packaging for at least ten minutes. Luckily, our box design had worked and the burger was intact.
I am most looking forward to having a consumer brand for the first time. At the end of year one we expect to be breaking even or profitable. It’s a long-term plan though, as we would like to develop a lot of sites, so a lot of money will be spent growing as well. From our experience so far on this project, my advice to any budding entrepreneurs is: if you have an idea that you’re serious about, arrange to meet owner-operators of leading businesses in that sector. You’ll learn loads and make good contacts. I'm 25 years old, but people aren't as intimidating as you think towards a young person starting a business.