Growing a high-end Food Delivery Company in London

Wednesday 22nd March

By Chiara Fiorillo

Chiara Fiorillo is a journalism student from Italy, currently studying at City, University of London. She is interested in the food industry and its technological development. Enthusiastic about journalism, Chiara is aiming to become a foreign correspondent.

Londoners are hungrier than ever and with the British food delivery market being valued at around £5.5 bn, the industry is constantly being reinvented and innovated by new players. We spoke to Rahul Parekh, founder and CEO of EatFirst, a food delivery company for chef-made, high quality meals, to understand how they make food delivered to your door as tasty and as good-looking as if you were eating it at a restaurant.

EatFirst was born from a first-hand experience and frustration. Rahul, during his days of working full-time in the city, used to order a lot of takeaway food. When he realised that the food he was ordering wasn’t as high-quality as in the restaurants, he started thinking of a new way of doing delivery food that didn’t compromise on quality.

EatFirst is now an online food business that creates chef-quality meals that are designed for delivery. Made in the kitchen in Wapping by their team of chefs, the meals are chilled before being delivered, ready to be heated and eaten.

The main focus for the company, Rahul says, is on quality and making sure they have the best products on the market. He believes that what you put in each dish really impacts on the final product.

“Building a food brand from scratch takes time,” he says. One of the biggest challenges for Rahul was looking for funding because the takeaway market was already so saturated and he knew he had to show that the company was doing something new. Well, Rahul and his team clearly did something right as they have since been able to raise investment to the chime of over £10m, which has been used to grow EatFirst in London.

Rahul on…

Building a network for your business

In the early days of EatFirst, Rahul himself travelled all around the UK and Europe in order to talk to and meet as many people as possible about his business. He eventually managed to bring on board three investors, which has been a critical factor in EatFirst’s success. Fundraising was important in the beginning, and since then the focus has also been on publicity and creating a far wider network and community for the business. This mix of cash injections and media support has helped EatFirst grow and the company is now regularly featured in Metro, Daily Mail and the Evening Standard.

Attracting good people to work for the company

A good team is an essential part of a successful company. Rahul prides himself on having so many talented people, such as chefs like Benn Hodges, formerly of Roka, The Century Club and The Club at the Ivy, working with him. He argues that ensuring your company is doing something really innovative and exciting is the best way to attract good people. Despite there being lots of delivery companies out there, Rahul’s aim was to give the market something different and new with EatFirst, which others could not offer.

Efficiency is key to profitability

When the company started, the team just wanted to create a great product, but when investors started to get involved, profitability became far more important. EatFirst’s strategy for driving profits is by constantly looking for smart ways of managing food waste, forecasting and organising the kitchen and the equipment to make operations more efficient. They have automated a lot of their equipment and it’s now even possible for them to cook from an ipad controlled from another room!

Preventing food waste

The company relies a lot on technology and having access to data is essential in making sure that nothing goes in the bin unnecessarily, especially because they want their meals to be made fresh on the day that they get eaten. As the company is developing, they are able to forecast how many meals will be sold each day and resource plan accordingly and the data they get has proven to be very accurate up until now.

It’s all about presentation

Before adding a new dish to the menu, there is a six-week process during which time the chefs develop the dish and ensure it is good enough to add. In order to ensure restaurant-quality presentation, the chefs adapt the food to the delivery box, reheat and taste it to make sure it tastes just as good. Furthermore, they also run delivery tests to further put the quality of their meals to scrutiny, getting their drivers to pick the food up, drive away and deliver it back to them. Importantly, they aim to keep things simple so as not to distract from the quality of the ingredients and they use feedback to adjust and improve the meals they prepare. Customer surveys have served the business well as a way of constantly improving and listening to the needs and feedback of their audience.

Responding to a trend towards clean eating

At the beginning, the company’s customer demographic was mainly made up of city professionals but this has since developed to include new audiences. Many of their customers are focused on keeping a healthy diet, so ensuring their menu presents options for a balanced diet is important. However, it’s also good to offer some indulgent options so people have the choice to treat themselves too. Either way, EatFirst provides its customers with all the nutritional information they need so that they know exactly what they are eating.

Rahul shared his insights with us when he came to talk at Food Tech Wednesdays in February 2017. Food Tech Wednesdays is our free monthly meetup held every last Wednesday of the month. We get founders, startups, future-preneurs and larger brands coming together over their interest and passion for Food Tech and we’re always welcoming fresh and familiar faces. Be sure to join us next month for another exciting instalment!


Piping hot Food Tech news, delivered to your inbox!

Subscribe to our mailing list for all the latest news from the Food Tech space. Never miss out on updates on our monthly Food Tech Wednesdays meetups and our next Food Tech Week.