Nick Levens co-founded Life’s Kitchen to create high-quality, atmospheric experiences for discerning diners, but the credit crunch nearly ended the dream before it got a foothold. Nick explains to Your Ready Business how always maintaining a fierce attention to detail has helped the business to be successful even during really challenging times.
Before I get into how paying attention to detail can move a business above its competitors, let me tell you a little bit about Life’s Kitchen.
Dave Pay, my co-founder and I first worked together running the catering function for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatre group. He was the group executive chef and I was the contract manager. Together we ran the catering operation at twelve theatres across the West End of London.
Our experience and the low barriers to entry drove us to start our business. We soon won a short-term contract to run the catering function at a livery hall in London. By ensuring we focused on every single last detail to deliver catering events to an extremely high standard our clients left our events with a positive perception of the Life’s Kitchen. Quality is never compromised and as a result we have grown to where we are today.
Today we have an established base of three beautiful venues and including the other non-exclusive contracts we run about 1,000 events a year, turning over about £3 million. We have 30 employees with more people on a temporary basis at peak season. So on a normal Thursday in December, say, there will be about 150 people working for us.
So why is attention to detail the key ingredient for success?
Great people and great product are at the core of our business. The ‘stage’ is provided by the wonderful venues we operate in and the wow factor they create is never lost on us. Dave and I make sure our own standards reinforce this experience and that a meticulous attention to detail is embedded across our business
For starters we source very high-quality products and aim to recruit and retain the best employees. We pay well and we support our team. In return we ask for a high level of professionalism and a real focus on delivering the Life’s Kitchen experience every time our customers deal with us.
Though we’re an established business, we remain the new kids on the block. Of the 38 livery halls in the City of London 25 are commercial venues and 18 of those are contracted to one of three companies, so we have to set high standards and differentiate through service in order to grow.
The team meets every week and we go through each event, line by line, to see what went right and what could be improved. It’s a collective responsibility approach and we take it very seriously.
Regardless of your business, by keeping real service excellence at its heart and becoming a perfectionist, you can ensure you win new customers through recommendations and referrals.
If every aspect of what you do surpasses people’s expectations, they will talk about your brand in glowing terms. These verbal recommendations are precious business-boosters and they only happen if you make sure everything is spot on.
In 2016 the first measure of success for us will be another 1,000 events delivered with feedback at as close to five stars as humanly possible. We’re also looking at new avenues of growth, in new geographic territories and moving beyond livery halls.
One idea is to create a package that people can use to create brilliant dinner parties in the home. We would use the strength of our brand and source the food and drink the same way – it’s something we are testing.
But the key for us will always be to deliver quality. The customer experience is everything in our business and that means excellent food prepared and served to the highest standards. It’s important for all catering businesses to remember that you are only as good as the last course of the last meal you served.
Learn more about Life’s Kitchen here.