Our first year of trading: Fittata

First of all, tell us a bit about yourselves and how your entrepreneurial journey began?

The story of Fittata began in 2013; at the time, both Jake and I were working in Central London, Jake as a chef in a private bank in Mayfair and me as a food PR. In the Summer of 2013 Jake was made redundant from the bank he was cooking at and decided he wanted to set up a food company selling healthy lunches to offices workers in central London. Bored of the standard sandwiches and unnecessarily carb-loaded lunch options on offer, Jake wanted to create a product that was high in protein, low in fat, kept you full throughout the afternoon and tasted delicious.

From this initial idea, Jake decided to develop a modern British twist on the much loved Italian classic Frittata, something he had cooked many times for the staff in the bank, and a dish that was already becoming increasingly popular in homes across the UK as a go-to, quick and healthy meal. We started without a brand online presence, no Fittata Facebook page, Twitter account, anything like that. It was simply Jake’s personal Facebook account, word of mouth and hungry friends.

How did the idea come about and when did you realise it had the potential to become a full-time business? 

The inspiration behind Fittata came from Jake’s search for a healthy lunch that was high in protein, low in fat, kept you full throughout the afternoon and most importantly that was handmade and tasted delicious. There was nothing on the market quite like it. Low carb lunches were mainly salads and soups, which let’s face it don’t really cut it in terms of satisfaction at lunchtime, especially if you have a gym session booked in for after work. You need a balanced meal for lunch, something that will keep you full and stop you snacking on crap throughout the afternoon.

After about 3 months of trialling the concept, we realised the demand was there, feedback for the product was consistently excellent and orders began to grow. By the end of October 2013 we had a brand and online presence, and Fittata – The Healthy Frittata Company was officially launched.

Pitch Fittata in one sentence: 

Healthy, high protein, low carb, handmade lunches delivered to your desk.


Why Frittata’s - have you always enjoyed them or was it a case of seeing a gap in the market?

When Jake was cooking at the bank in Green Park he used to cook Frittatas for the staff. The standard large round fried Frittatas – with potato. Working in Mayfair, Jake realised that there was a lack of delicious, low carb, healthy lunches on offer that weren’t just a bland, unfilling salad. He also realised how many people ate lunch at their desk. Jake saw a gap in the market – and developed a modern twist on the classic Frittata by removing the potato and baking them rather than frying them.

This produced, along with the salad that it is served, a filling, healthy, delicious, high protein, low fat, low carb, gluten free lunch box (the gluten free aspect was actually unintentional but has turned out to be a huge selling point for us). 

How has the first 12 months of trading gone? 

We have sold over 12,000 boxes since official launch back in October 2013, moved out of our home kitchen into an industrial kitchen premises and employed a few delivery staff to work for us. We upped our prices, with no question from any of our customers (we were clearly v. under-priced to start with!), put on a 5 x box minimum order for Zone 1, which backfired massively, lowered the minimum order – and are now, we hope, on the right track.

We now have over 800 people on our mailing list and are just starting to see the rewards of a small PR push we started in January. Our busiest day for desk deliveries we made and delivered 124 boxes, at that point it was just Jake and I – it was a pretty mental day to say the least.

The highlight?

Moving the business out of our home into the kitchen premises where we are housed now, and employing delivery staff.  

You've recently moved premises from your own kitchen, how does a startup know when the right time is to grow? 

It’s all about demand. About six months after officially launching we had the demand which put us in the position to be able to start our search for an industrial kitchen. We kept our overheads as low as possible for as long as possible. But it got to the stage where both Jake and I were desperate to move the business out of our home kitchen.

We searched for a kitchen for about 6 months, but we just couldn’t find anything suitable in a good location, we even got very close to taking on a lease for a shop in Shoreditch which, thankfully, we pulled out of last minute -something in hindsight was a very lucky escape!

Eventually we found a perfect kitchen in Clapham Junction, which is where we are now. The location of our kitchen is great for u s– many of the kitchens we looked at were as far-out as Wembley and Park Royal, which for us, in terms of delivery logistics, would just not have worked.

What's been the biggest barrier and how did you overcome it? 

Our biggest barrier to date is the inconsistency of orders – it is not like having clients and businesses on a retainer, which is what I was used to from past jobs. All orders have to be in by 2pm for delivery the following day, which minimises our waste to practically nothing, but also means you don’t know how busy you are going to be that week until the afternoon the day before.

There are definitely ups and downs, it is not always plain sailing – you have days that you think ‘is this worth it?’ But you keep going and each bad day is upped by a good day.

We recently did an event for Nike (NTC Week) in Mayfair – they ordered over 500 boxes and this was huge for us Obviously Nike is a globally respected brand and to work alongside them was a great moment for us. We thought at that point….this might just be working. 

What do you enjoy most about running your own business? 

Being in complete control of the decision making and the great feeling of fulfilment and satisfaction gained from seeing the business develop and grow. 

Why do you think there's such a boom in the healthy food start-up space?

People today are far more educated and aware of how what you eat can affect your health, how you look, how you feel, your mood etc. The saying ‘you are what you eat’ could not be more true.

People are way more savvy about what they are putting into their bodies, something that is made easier by the media’s spotlight in this topic as well as the likes of hugely popular healthy food bloggers such as Deliciously Ella, Madeleine Shaw and Hemsley and Hemsley, to name a few. The theme throughout is healthy made easy, fun and affordable - a lifestyle that is increasingly easy to follow.

Even the big chains are getting involved – take Pret for example, who started off selling sandwiches and crisps, now offering gluten and wheat free options as well as guilt free snacking.

This just shows that people are beginning look for, and expect, affordable healthier options – the bigger companies are having to adapt to this demand and the small start-ups are coming into the market with this healthy living wholly in mind.

Best advice you could give to anyone starting up this year? 

Read Bread and Butter by Tim Roupell ...an amazingly blunt insight into what it takes to start a food business in London.

If you have an idea that you think will work – talk to people about it, do your market research, and NOT just with friends – friends have a tendency to sugar coat things – they might say they would buy what you are proposing to start selling / producing – but you cannot rely on them as customers, and you certainly cannot rely on most of them to tell you the hard truth about what they actually think about your product on a commercial level – ask outside of the box.

Just go for it, learn by doing, and if you fail, try again. Jake and I had no experience of running a business before Fittata – we have learnt so much, and continue to learn every day. Trial and error plays a massive part of it – but when it is your business you can make decisions very quickly, change things very quickly to adapt what your customer wants and current market trends.  

In the end hard work and a bit of luck is what it comes down to – and selling something that is a necessity makes things a lot easier, e.g. lunches. Everyone needs to eat lunch.  If you are selling something that people require every day that should be half the battle done – then you just have to produce something that people love!

What's next for Fittata?

Our focus for the first half of this year is to build the larger orders, and secure catering contracts. The bigger orders like these are what is going to make us grow as a business and enable us to expand.

We also want to make the ordering process easier, and are currently working with a friend’s company to build a state of the art online ordering system. And then there is the retail and wholesale avenues…

Visit Fittata to find out more about their delicious lunch boxes. You can also follow the startup on Twitter or like their Facebook page 

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