How to set up a food business: Pop-up to host restaurants and advice clinics

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Restaurant

Food business support programme Kitchenette is to launch a summer pop-up which will include advice sessions for potential restaurant entrepreneurs
Food business support programme Kitchenette is to launch a summer pop-up which will include advice sessions for potential restaurant entrepreneurs
The team behind food start-up business support programme Kitchenette are to launch a summer pop-up in Islington which will give potential entrepreneurs the chance to hear from some of the industry's success stories including MeatLiquor founder Yianni Papoutsis and Martin Morales from Ceviche.

The Kitchenette Summer Pop-Up will see the former Citroen garage in Upper Street transformed - it will host restaurants, tastings and demos as well as acting as a classroom and lecture theatre for would-be food business owners.

Papoutsis will tell his 'accidental restaurateur' story, charting how he went from a street food van to a multi-million pound burger business, while Morales will reveal what he wished he had known before he entered the industry.

Other sessions will focus on how to write great food copy for a blog or website, how to make money from a sustainable food business and how to design a great menu. 

Roast founder Iqbal Wahhab, who helped finance the set-up of Kitchenette and is the current chairman of the project, is one of a number of restaurateurs who will be cooking at the pop-up - Wahhab will be serving a hog roast and will be donating all profits back to Kitchenette.  

Starting point

The venture is the brainchild of Cynthia Shanmugalingam who founded Kitchenette and has helped numerous entrepreneurs get started by leading them through a 12-week business incubator programme during which time their ideas are turned into a fully-formed strategy backed up by data.

The participants 'graduate' with the contacts, confidence and know-how to hopefully successfully launch their business.

Speaking to BigHospitality, Shanmugalingam said she expected the pop-up to attract a wide variety of people keen to learn more about getting started.

"Starting a food business is something we all dream of doing one day," she said.

"We will hopefully attract people from all different starting points whether they run a street food business now and want to open a bricks and mortar business, whether they want to quit their job in the City and start a great restaurant or whether they are a chef working for someone else who just wants to start their own thing."

Permanent site

If the pop-up is successful, former economist Shanmugalingam is hoping to find a permanent home in London which will act as a dedicated space for food start-ups, following in the footsteps of San Francisco-based business incubator kitchen La Cocina.

"We would like to have our own kitchen incubator which is a platform for people to try out new restaurant prototypes and to see for themselves how to run a restaurant.

"We would also like there to be a single dedicated place in London for people who are interested in starting food businesses. It is relatively difficult to go to a good course on how to set-up a food business.

"We are looking at a couple of locations in Hackney and hopefully that will happen," she added.

Starting a food business - Cynthia Shanmugalingam's top tips:

  • Start small - "Starting a food business is notoriously risky but taking the first step doesn't have to be quitting your job, signing a 15-year lease and taking out a £500k loan. It can be as simple as creating a menu, setting up a supper club in your living room and inviting your friends around to see what they think."
  • Don't be daunted by the economics: "The reason the failure rates are so high is because it is difficult to make a sustainable business work, especially as the sector is getting so competitive - but it is not rocket science: get on top of your numbers and make something people like - that is it."
  • Understand what your consumers want: "One of the reasons your business might not be working commercially could be because you have not found the right market. When Mei Mei’s Street Cart came on the programme she was doing a few days in Camden Market where she wasn't doing very well, we put her in Feast and she sold out on the first night."

The pop-up runs from Thursday 11 July until Wednesday 28 August - sessions will be ticketed although walk-ups will also be welcomed. More information is available on Twitter and via the Kitchenette website. 

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