Entreprise in Food#2: Feedback
Published on 04 May 2021 by NEOMA
‘Food’ attracts many entrepreneurs. Although the profession may at first appear simple, it is in fact particularly demanding. Some of NEOMA’s graduates and incubees, who have created their own businesses, give us their best advice. Here is their list of DOs & DON’Ts.
Train in catering
“When we left NEOMA, we told ourselves that we’d just come out of a great business school, so we could quickly set up our big project. It was fortunate that we had problems finding a location. We wanted over 1000 m2 but we didn’t have much money. So what did we do in the meantime? We worked in restaurants, and on food trucks. It was really useful for learning every aspect of the sector, and how such an establishment works. From the kitchen side, you get a different view of the organisation. You have to manage the stores, the staff, and all the unforeseen events. A restaurant is a real hotbed of problems: not a week goes past without a floorboard collapsing or a delivery failing to arrive or an unexpected meal to be produced as a matter of urgency. You cannot imagine all that sitting at your computer looking at your Excel spreadsheets. It’s really very important to have that solid base of reality. And also to make sure that you are really suited to the business and the lifestyle. We are working when other people are resting or having fun.” Philippe Blanchot and Guillaume Souloumac, founders of La Friche.
Get involved in food because you like cooking
«We are gourmets, we love eating wonderful food, we like sitting round a big table, we like having friends round. But it’s a big mistake to say to yourself, I’m a good cook, or I know someone else who is, I’ve got a bit of money, I’ll have a go. That’s not enough to be an entrepreneur in food ». Philippe Blanchot and Guillaume Souloumac, founders of La Friche.
Stay alert, look all around
“You need to travel throughout the world and look elsewhere for new types of consumption. When I travelled to Peru, I loved eating in the markets, women had stalls offering dishes that were all very different from each other, helpings were generous, it was really cheap. The idea travelled to be worked on at the NEOMA incubator. That’s how we came up with the concept of the ‘Friche Gourmande’, a large area with various different stalls. At that time, that type of place where everything is gathered together just didn’t exist in France.” Philippe Blanchot and Guillaume Souloumac, founders of La Friche.
« You need to look at what goes on in countries that work differently from ours. Especially the United States. What happens abroad is often the French market of tomorrow. In any case you need to pay attention to how the market is evolving. » Benoît Leroy, founder of Nachos.
Think big from the beginning
« I learned one essential thing working in the NEOMA incubator: you have to try your project out. You have to find a small-scale approach that will let you test out your project at low cost. It’s all very well to be behind your computer, but you must test out your ideas on the ground. Before launching the Friche Gourmande, we found an empty piece of land. We rented it from Lille Council, and set up there for six months. The aim was to have a short experience to see if the concept worked and discover the problems we might have to face. We went back the following year, then we opened La Friche in 2020. » Philippe Blanchot and Guillaume Souloumac, founders of La Friche Gourmande.
“We tested our project throughout the summer months. This was our work experience at the NEOMA incubator. Through social networks, we recruited people who were interested in the concept: preparing and sharing a meal with people you don’t know. That encourages people to meet each other. We managed to do about ten. And that allowed us to see that in terms of organisation, what might look simple really isn’t. In our case, for example, there was an issue with payment. We also realised that we really needed GDPR clauses.” Cristal Bir and Ludivine Akopoff, founders of Tip’s Cook.
Do it better, bring something new
« You can still innovate in Food, you can always do better, you can always do it differently. An entrepreneur is above all meeting a need. I see lots of problems emerging in food, health, the environment, and I see a great desire to change things ». Victoria Benhaim, founder of Ilunch.
« We can be innovative in the way we serve the product, market its sales point, communicate, present it, etc. We used to wait for the customer to walk through the door of the restaurant, now we have to go and find them ». Benoît Leroy, founder of Nachos.
Count every penny
“It’s a business where you need to count every penny, you have to be meticulous, you have to control cost items very rigorously. And be careful: it’s a very competitive sector and there is a price war going on. But the big players in mass catering know that below a certain level they are putting themselves at risk. You must not let yourself be dragged along by the competition,” Victoria Benhaim, founder of Ilunch
“To open a restaurant in the town centre, you will be investing between 100,000 and 200,000 euros. The price is affordable, it’s not as if you were building a metalworking factory, but you still have 200,000 to pay back by selling dishes at between 5 and 25 euros. You’ll have to sell a lot to make a profit. So to keep it viable you need a really professional approach, that’s what makes the difference between a good amateur cook, and an entrepreneur who knows all the ins and outs.” Philippe Blanchot and Guillaume Souloumac, founders of La Friche.
“At the beginning we made a mistake: the menus were too extensive and the prices were too low. We couldn’t turn a profit. Now, our viability rests on our ability to purchase well, and thanks to the rationalising of tasks, planning is done in a forensic manner. In catering, it’s a set of details that ensures success,” Benoît Leroy of Nachos.
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