While the foodservice industry is feeling the financial squeeze, Foodstars is looking to cash in by slashing caterers’ running costs with its rentable commercial kitchen facilities. Emma Calder went along to the launch of its new site in Shoreditch and spoke to the man behind the concept to find out why he’s convinced it’s a game-changer.
With rates consistently creeping up and a sparse offering of commercial kitchen space in prime locations, Foodstars couldn’t dream of a better time to break into the rental facilities market in the capital.
The commercial kitchen rental company, which was founded by Will Beresford, Roy Shaby and Daniel Abrahams in 2015, is looking to help budding start-ups, caterers, food testers and street food chefs, among a plethora of others, nurture their businesses while trimming their operating expenses.
The business, which rents kitchens to foodservice operators on a flexible and temporary basis, has transformed railways arches into commercial catering hubs with multiple kitchen units per facility. When the entrepreneurs were looking to set up shop they were keen to capture the central London market with a zone one or two location, leading them to pitch their first site, which housed three kitchens, in Bethnal Green.
Speaking to FEJ, Beresford explains how the trio discovered a glaring gap in the market. He says: “I rented a kitchen in South London, which was operated by my now business partner Roy. We realised there was a gap in market, we had a look around the market and the standard of kitchens wasn’t very good, there were barely any in zones one and two in London so we thought ‘let’s build great quality kitchens in prime London locations’.”
After opening in Bethnal Green it quickly became apparent to the Foodstars owners that three kitchens were not enough and there was high enough demand for their business to set up more facilities.
In less than two years the company has developed four separate facilities comprising 50 individual kitchens in Bethnall Green, Vauxhall, Bermondsey and most recently in Shoreditch, which opened its doors in September.
The new 20,000sqft facility offers private spaces, which can be accessed 24/7, and shared units, with one client using the space from 6am until 4pm and another using the same space from 4pm until 2am.
The company equips each kitchen with a starter package of a combi oven, gas range, industrial sinks, fridge freezers and work benches, but allows renters to bring in and remove equipment as they need.
“It’s the first question that gets asked 90% of the time when companies come in. they go, ‘Do you do Rationals?’”
While the company, which boasts a client list including Bill’s Restaurants, Mustard Catering, Gym Food, Dinnergise and Bel-Air, only offers five pieces of equipment as standard, Beresford is keen to provide the most sought-after equipment.
Beresford says: “We always want Rationals, as everyone does. It’s the first question that gets asked 90% of the time when companies come in. They go, ‘do you do Rationals?’ So we do. We also have some Hobart, Electrolux Professional and Bartlett Yeoman ovens and for the fridges clients prefer the more reputable brands, Williams and Foster fridges.”
While it is important for Beresford to furnish the sites with top-of-the-range equipment, sometimes cost-cutting measures come first.
Rather than forking out thousands for a piece of equipment for a kitchen that he can’t watch over while an ever-changing culinary team puts it through its paces, the Foodstars team has decided to go an alternative route.
Foodstars has kitted out its kitchens almost exclusively with second-hand products that are regularly maintened in a bid to slash upfront costs.
“The only thing I would say about, say, the latest oven out on the market, we’re probably not a buyer of that, the businesses that rent off us are going to be the buyer of that because if we spend £1,500 why are we spending that money when other companies are using it?” he adds.
“If someone if going to invest in expensive equipment, they tend to invest themselves. I’m not watching a business’ six chefs a day slamming doors and being careless with ovens and fridges and not treating equipment the way it should be treated so that is why we can’t justify spending the big bucks on equipment.”
Due to much of the equipment being second-hand, the team has worked with various dealers to source the kit it needs. Beresford explains: “It doesn’t come from one place, we’ve used Catequip, we have used Nisbets, we have used local suppliers around East London.”
Despite managing to cut financial corners by re-commissioning once-loved machines, each unit within the facility costs nothing short of six-figures to prepare for renters.
With the new facility up and running, and another block in the Shoreditch Kitchen opening shortly, clients are knocking on the door to grab themselves a unit.
While the private option is currently proving to be the most popular on offer, Beresford is finding that due to turbulent political and financial climates, all operators within the foodservice sector are feeling the financial squeeze and there is no one type of customer for Foodstars kitchens.
“Restaurants have felt the strain over the last year and will do with high property prices, Brexit and hiking business rates, while staffing is a major issue. Caterers, restaurants, central production, local retailers making products for shelves, food delivery-only companies and product testers like Bill’s, they are the core markets that we are in. With something like a commercial kitchen you don’t have as many staff as you would have on a restaurant floor, you don’t have to pay the high rents. We don’t even charge business rates here, we pay the business rates for everyone, and you can set up a very flexible kitchen.”
Beresford is looking to take the service outside the capital, too. “We have a couple of things lined up going forward. I won’t say too much on it, but we don’t intend to just be restricted to just London.”
With increasing financial pressures and a glaring gap in the market for rentable space, it seems that Foodstars couldn’t have picked a better time to ramp up its business.