On the up Rebecca Smith · 11 August 2015
ScandiKitchen: Surviving a recession and making simple food a success
After’struggling to get their business going in the recession, Jonas and Bronte Aurrell, the owners of ScandiKitchen, have sincecapitalised on the UK’s obsession with Nordic noir to establish their London-based cafe. Their aim to bring simple ScandI food to British tables is now well underway, with the publication of their first book coming up this autumn. We sat down with themto gain a better insight into how the company survived the downturn and where it will be in five years time. (1) Who are you and what’s your business? ScandiKitchen is a caf, delI and wholesale business set up in 2007. Being Scandinavians living in the UK, we were missing food from home and back then nobody was importing the stuff we wanted to eat. So we decided to do it ourselves.Our webshop now serves the whole of the UK with 800 Scandinavian food products and we supply everybody from individuals to big restaurants and supermarkets. (2) How long have you been around for? We opened our doors 10 July 2007 and had our first child the same day. Itwasnt quite planned that these two events were to happen the same time, but we managed! Both of us had great jobs before (I worked for the BBC while Bronte worked for Innocent drinks), but we wanted to create something together and wanted to help Scandinavian food gain popularity in the UK. (3) How do you make money? The beginning wasnt easy. A month after we opened, the recession hit. When you risk everything you have to open a caf? in London, you really suffer during times like those. We worked hard on ensuring we stocked the stuff people wanted to buy, that the caf? was a place where everybody feels welcome. After a rocky start, we learnt some important lessons and began eventually to make a small profit. It wasnt a quick journey. (4) What makes you different and why should someone take notice? We have always said we are here to deliver good food with love from Scandinavia. Were genuine about what we want to do and this comes from a real love of the food from our home countries. We want to make sure that everybody who pops by the caf? or orders online has a nice experience of Scandinavia. We really are about the food Scandinavians eat at home not an inflated, fancy version of it. Scandinavians are simple people and we eat simple food. But our food is good and wholesome and worth trying. (5)what was key in terms of getting started? The key terms of getting started were firstly to make a business plan that was solid enough to function practically. We worked on this for six months. We did everything from count footfall to read studies about sandwich shops. Then it was to get the cash together to set up. Were an independent business we spent our own cash and pretty much every penny we could get hold off from friends and family on setting up a caf? with no inventors. In hindsight, it would have been a lot easier to get investment from the outside. To be honest, once we opened, we didnt have much time to do much thinking. We just worked. Once we re-surfaced, the first thing we did was to sit down and re-plan everything again. (6) What’s your biggest achievement to date? Surviving the first year. Two-thirds of new caf’s fold inside the first year and another third of these inside the next year. Aside from getting through it our biggest achievement is creating work places for 25 people. Creating jobs in the UK market is something we, as immigrants, are proud of. We contribute to the economy in a real way and we are very happy to be a successful, working business in the UK today. From a more personal point of view, being a good employer is important. Taking care of the people who work for us and creating a nice place to work. Helping our people feel motivated, appreciated and developed in the time they choose to spend with us. (7) What setbacks have you had along the way? Aside from hitting a major recession in year one? That was the biggest one and the hardest. Weve probably had every kind of set back you can imagine. Our staffing tends to work in cycles because in a caf, the people tend to be transient in London for a year or two, so at times, we have had to face having a very new team and lose great people who have moved onto other fields of work. Weve faced times when we hadnt kept an eye on the cash flow as much as we should have and had to lay awake at night, worrying. Weve had suppliers forgetting to put our orders on the truck not a small issue if your supplier is in the north of Sweden and the next delivery isnt for another two weeks. But on the positive side, you learn from all set backs and you surf those waves instead of trying to stop them.
ABOUT THE EXPERTRebecca Smith
Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.