February 11, 2017

3 Reasons Food Businesses Survive The First 2 Years

Why is it that some great ideas fail, and some ‘fail’ ideas work out great? Well mostly it comes down to business, and that’s what we’ll be talking about in this article. At its most basic level, good business revolves around earning more than you expend, so in the very least, you can start off by finding a kitchen to rent with great costs and a good local market potential to kick off from. However, what more is there to it than that?

OK, so the first point I want to make is that building a food business is an art and not a science. So if you’re reading this article hoping for a magic formula for business success you’ll be disappointed. I don’t have it and if I did I wouldn’t be writing this article; I’d be holidaying in the Azures!

I have had the privilege of working with and getting to understand a great number of food businesses, food startups and food entrepreneurs and this article is based on those experiences.

1. Good Food Businesses Start With Why

It’s a given that most food businesses start out to make money but that should never be your why. To be successful a food entrepreneur needs to have fully explored the reasons why they’re starting a business.

Now that could be as simple as: ‘I can never find any great tasting gluten free food so I want to change that’; or it could be as lofty as: ‘I want to revolutionise the way people snack’. Either way a food startup needs to fully explore its why.

You’d be surprised by the number of businesses I had that came to sell to me when I was a Retail Buyer that couldn’t answer simple questions like, ‘So what makes your brand different to the others in the category?’ because they hadn’t understood this.

2. Good Food Businesses Take the Right Time

I get it. Starting your own business is exciting and you just want to go ahead and get going. However, there are some things that you just can’t rush.

A good food startup takes its time over branding and brand strategy. This should be the lifeblood of the business and, if done correctly, will shape any decision the business takes going forward. Therefore it cannot be rushed.

However, in the same breath I’d issue a warning: don’t harbour ‘the fear’ and procrastinate over taking that first step into working for yourself. I’ve come across businesses in the past that have spent years developing and perfecting a product to make it absolutely perfect and constantly seek advice on what people think of the product and will it work.

You’ll never know if people will buy your product until you try to sell it and nothing is set in stone. If Mars can rebrand the Marathon Bar then I’m sure it’s also appropriate for any food business.

3. Good Food Businesses Learn

This final point is key. A good food entrepreneur should enjoy learning and networking and building knowledge. Food businesses don’t exist in a bubble so you need to be very aware of the market in which you’re operating by understanding what your competitors are doing, what retailers are doing and what suppliers are doing.

You should build a strong network of people you can seek advice from and that you trust. I find the food industry to have open arms and people are usually very receptive and happy to chat, even if you’re a direct competitor. Don’t be afraid to nurture relationships that will offer you a different perspective and a different way of doing things.

My caveat here would be that a good business filters this information. If you ran your business by committee you wouldn’t have any direction. You need to decide what is appropriate for your food business within your capabilities and ambitions. It’s OK to seek advice and not take it.

Think of any food entrepreneur you respect and the confidence that emanates from them. They will all seek counsel but they will all have the confidence and self-belief to make up their own mind.

So that’s a view of the world from my perspective and what can be the difference between the success and failure of food businesses.

By Northern Munkee.

About the Author

Simon Greenwood-Haigh graduated with a BA and MA in English from Loughborough University. Simon is now working towards completing his MBA from the University of Bradford and is due to finish in March 2017.

Simon has spent his working life in the food and drink industry with roles in retail operations, trading and commercial for multi-national corporations. His career thus far has seen him awarded a place on The Grocer’s Top New Talent of 2016 List.

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